Back in September, when Gov. Chris Christie hosted a closed-door summit on Atlantic City’s future with various government and business leaders, he promised it wouldn’t be the last.Christie returned to Atlantic City on Wednesday to host another meeting of the minds as the various stakeholders reconvened at the offices of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
“I don’t think we have any more time to waste,” Christie said, opening the talks with a message of urgency. “Especially not for political arguments.”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Christie relayed several recommendations put forth in a report by real estate industry leader Jon Hanson, who serves as the chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Gaming. Among the suggestions include creating the position of an emergency manager, developing public-private partnerships in the area, exploring shared services options and working towards tax, school and pension reforms.
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Christie said he is “not invested” in any of the measures, but is “taking all of them under consideration.” The governor declined to offer specifics on what the role of an emergency manager would entail.
“I’d like to have some time to absorb it,” Christie said of the report, which has yet to be made available to the public.
When the group first met in September, two casinos, Showboat and Revel, had just closed and a third, Trump Plaza, was preparing to shutter. The Trump Taj Mahal was rumored to be next on the chopping block.
Counting the January closure of the Atlantic Club, four of the city’s 12 casinos have now closed in the current calendar year.
As of Wednesday, the Taj Mahal’s future remains uncertain, city finances continue to be troublesome and a new concern has emerged as United Airlines announced last week that it is pulling out of Atlantic City International Airport after launching service there in April.
Christie, who noted earlier in the week that he was given little notice about United’s plans, said Wednesday that he had not yet spoken with the airline.
In advance of Wednesday’s meeting, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) put forth a multilayered legislative proposal earlier in the week that among other things, would seek to guarantee property tax payments by allowing casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes, redirect some taxes to pay down the city’s debt and reduce municipal administrative costs.
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Christie declined to address the specifics of Sweeney’s proposal but said that, like other recommendations set forth Wednesday, it would be given due consideration.
Following the summit, Sweeney said he was encouraged by the discussion, which he said featured a lot of positives.
“I’m very confident that we can fix this,” Sweeney said.
The group will look to reconvene sometime in January.
A short time after the meeting, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Caesars Entertainment announced the college plans to acquire the shuttered Showboat Casino Hotel and convert it into a branch campus.
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