From a conference room at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority with a window view of the Trump Taj Mahal, the Atlantic City casino rumored to potentially be the fifth to close this year, Gov. Chris Christie hosted a summit Monday on the city’s future with state and local government and business leaders.”The fact is that we have work to do,” Christie said.
During opening remarks of what was otherwise a closed-door meeting, Christie briefly talked up the need to help Atlantic City transition from “beyond just a gambling attraction.”
Though the city once enjoyed a “monopoly east of the Mississippi,” as Christie noted, competition from neighboring states continues to mount, making the reality of casino closures and gaming revenue losses an “inevitable occurrence.”
“This is the natural evolution of what has to happen in Atlantic City,” Christie said.
RELATED: Lawmakers cheer as Christie moves to allow sports betting
The meeting, which ran a little more than two hours, came on the heels of an announcement by Christie’s office earlier Monday that the administration had taken action to allow casinos and racetracks to begin offering legal sports wagering.
Following the closure of the Atlantic Club in January, the city has experienced a turbulent summer that has seen the closures of Showboat; the barely 2-year-old, $2.4 billion Revel; and the announced closing of Trump Plaza, which will officially go dark next week.
And reports surfaced late last week that Trump Entertainment Resorts LLC, the parent company of Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal, was facing bankruptcy proceedings thanks to its own struggles. Bloomberg News reported Monday that Trump Taj Mahal could close by mid-November, citing people familiar with its situtation.
Asked about the future of the Taj Mahal, Christie said he “can’t control” how the company makes its business decisions.
RELATED: Economic impact of The Miss America Pageant is a reminder of what Atlantic City has been, can be
Without citing specifics, Christie said Monday’s summit saw discussion about short- and long-term strategies for the city and was a meeting during which “everything was on the table.”
“That was not a pretend meeting in there,” Christie said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus), Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) all were present and joined Christie in his optimism about the summit.
Sweeney said Atlantic City’s demise had been widely “exaggerated” and that it was still a viable tourism and gaming destination.
RELATED: Think Revel cost N.J. taxpayers big? Think again. The story behind the dollars
“It’s the third-largest gaming market in the country, and that’s not changing,” Sweeney said.
Carrying signs that included, “No casinos elsewhere in NJ” and “Don’t make AC a ghost town,” protestors against proposals to expand casino gaming to North Jersey lined the sidewalk across the street from the CRDA in anticipation of Christie’s arrival.
“Save our city,” the group collectively chanted from time to time.
Addressing some of the protestors’ complaints that the meeting was closed to the public, Christie said it was “ridiculous” to allege the public’s voices were being muted, given that representatives like Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson were both in attendance.
Additional meetings will be held in the future, Christie said.
ALSO ON NJBIZ:
N.J. Business & Industry Association names new president
Hertz CEO out; impact on move to Florida unclear
Spotlight on Transportation: Is New Jersey traveling on road to ruin?