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Stateside W

elcome back from a busy summer, when major events occurred at lightning speed. For me, the unprecedented proposed “partnership” plan between New

Jersey’s state government and Atlantic City is the summer’s blockbuster gaming news. No other gaming state has proposed such a measure. On taking office in January 2010, Governor Chris Christie, a hard-driving former government prosecutor, requested a study of AC’s gaming problems. In July, Christie announced their suggestions to

widespread reaction. Industry leaders, including American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. and Mark Juliano, Trump CEO and Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) president, have praised Christie’s plan. Christie said, “Atlantic City has had a historically corrupt, ineffective, inefficient government… Now that Atlantic City faces competition from neighboring states, we have to create a new wave.” He blamed recently discovered financial waste,

saying, “We are here to partner in success. We are not here to subsidize failure… Delay will lead to demise.” That’s fine. I support anything that weeds out

Could this be a north/south issue, verging on a civil war?

governmental dishonesty and laziness. These recommendations could clearly benefit Atlantic City: • Create a “Clean and Safe” Tourism District, under

state oversight by July 1, 2011. • Create a master plan by July 1, 2011 for the new

Tourism District, focusing on marketing to both gaming and non-gaming suppliers. The “private- public partnership” would require significant contributions from casino companies and future investors. New attractions will increase demand within Atlantic City. • Improve Atlantic City’s economic stability by

attracting prestigious gaming operators to ownership of the 11 existing facilities, as well as new properties. • Through 2015, increase Atlantic City’s meeting and convention business, by at least 30% annually. • Replicate the Las Vegas model. Modernize New

Jersey’s regulatory structure to reduce costs and eliminate redundancies, while maintaining integrity. • Increase visitation and spending through joint

marketing efforts similar to other destination resorts. • Improve the transportation into Atlantic City. The new state authority would report to Christie, and manage maintenance, security and improvements. It would also assume the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) functions


Sharon Harris discusses radical plans for Atlantic City

to market AC and boost convention business. Another key change would be to the Casino

Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). Since 1984, the CRDA has collected 1.25% of the casinos’ annual revenues to fund more than 400 statewide projects. So far, development outside Atlantic City has received $360 million, or 19%, of total revenues. Christie wants the money to remain in Atlantic

City. I agree. The longtime need for Atlantic City infrastructure improvements is obvious. The CRDA tax is unlike the public contributions of income taxes or highway tolls, where everyone benefits. If the casinos contribute, projects helping them should receive the money. Saving $15 million to $25 million annually from

regulatory changes would provide money to fund a public/private revitalization effort for Atlantic City. Slot machines at New Jersey’s two state-owned

racetracks is a dead issue, as Christie wants to close or sell them. He also opposes racetrack VLT terminals and subsidies. For three years, Atlantic City’s casinos have paid $30 million annually to block the tracks from adding VLTs. What is the future for Revel Entertainment Group’s unfinished $2.5 billion Atlantic City megaresort? Unable to finance its interior development, Revel basically shut down construction last spring. State government will immediately address the Revel issue to determine how to get the site up and running. Fortunately, Christie supports the Revel project. He

has signed legislation to potentially appropriate more than $300 million in future state sales taxes towards infrastructure upgrades around Revel’s Boardwalk site. Does the public love this idea? Not according

recent statewide survey. A 56% majority favor privatizing the racetracks, but only 38% support state intervention in Atlantic City. Could this be a north/south issue, verging on a civil

war? Historically, the more heavily populated northern New Jersey counties have disagreed with the more rural South Jersey counties on many issues. I wonder…do they understand the dire need for action? Statistically, the casinos account for approximately

a third of New Jersey’s tourism, contributing billions in taxes and employing almost 100,000 directly and indirectly. Some North Jersey politicians vow to kill Christie’s plan, arguing that focusing solely on Atlantic City harms the racetrack counties. Kudos to Christie, whatever happens. Unlike prior administrations, he has demonstrated the willingness to take charge of a difficult situation.

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