Atlantic City Should Be New Jersey's ONLY Gaming Destination

Jan 22, 2012

Yet again, Atlantic City is under attack. Our city faces an economic assault that could immediately and permanently deal a critical blow to the gaming industry, Atlantic County’s largest employers. And this threat – despite being previously discussed, debated and dismissed – is again originating from lawmakers in Trenton.

A resolution in the New Jersey Assembly has been introduced to explore the option of building casinos at the Meadowlands. An additional measure would establish casinos outright in Bergen County by next year. Long accustomed to competition from neighboring states, Atlantic City would now have to contend against rival operations in-state. This would weaken the draw for gaming visitors from northern parts of New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania and New York to visit and spend money in our city. Diverting gaming from Atlantic City is counterintuitive to our shared goal of revitalizing the seaside resort, attracting additional investments and creating new jobs. Why would we roll the dice when the risk and cost is too high?

While the sponsors of the resolution and their supporters point to Atlantic City’s struggles of the past few years, the most recent reports and developments tell a different tale. In December, gaming revenues rose, thus showing signs of the industry emerging from more than three years of declines brought on by the faltering national economy. Likewise, the number of overnight bus passengers, private vehicles on the Expressway and travelers through Atlantic City International Airport all increased in the past year.

Critics will say that one month’s improvement does not make a trend. However, those statistics only tell half the story. The $2.4 billion Revel resort is scheduled to open this spring, bringing with it significant excitement in addition to thousands of jobs. Recent multi-million dollar renovations at Harrah’s, the Golden Nugget and other properties have demonstrated the commitment of the major gaming corporations to Atlantic City and renewed interest by gaming enthusiasts. And planned projects such as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and future concerts at Bader Field and Boardwalk Hall signal a positive outlook.

A central recommendation of Governor Christie’s advisory commission on gaming states that all casino gambling should remain in Atlantic City. Governor Christie has bet boldly and wisely on Atlantic City’s future. I strongly agree. We are merely at the beginning of the extensive efforts to revitalize Atlantic City and should not simply take our chips off the table and walk away. From creation of the Atlantic City Tourism District to reforms at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, changes are just starting to materialize while a master plan will be publicly revealed in the coming weeks. Actions to pre-emptively derail these efforts would be significantly harmful to South Jersey residents whose livelihoods are directly related to the gaming industry.

Quite simply, those Trenton lawmakers and other naysayers looking to write Atlantic City’s obituary are premature and short-sighted. New Jersey residents should once again reject creating additional gaming competition elsewhere in the state. Atlantic City should be New Jersey’s only gaming destination. Period.