New Jersey Governor Calls Closed-Door Summit for Troubled Atlantic City Amid Casino Closings and Lost Jobs

Atlantic City, NJ
Atlantic City, NJ

Gov. Chris Christie’s administration hasn’t made public the details of this week’s Atlantic City gaming summit, angering state lawmakers who want transparency as policymakers decide how to deal with a rash of casino closings and the loss of 7,600 jobs.

The meeting at the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority offices in Atlantic City isn’t open to the public or media.

“It should be open. Of course there should be as much public input as possible,” state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said. “They should hear from the people affected. Atlantic City is hemorrhaging, and it’s getting worse by the day.”

Trump Plaza casino is scheduled to close Sept. 16, reducing the number of Atlantic City casinos to eight. The resort started the year with 12 casinos. Trump Taj Mahal, owned by the same company, also is on the brink of running out of money to pay its bills and make debt payments, according to a recent financial filing.

The invitation-only meeting called by Christie primarily will include Atlantic County and local government officials, casino industry members and labor representatives. The governor’s office did not supply an agenda for Monday’s meeting, despite several requests.

David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said tourism industry leaders will have to talk about developing future uses for the closed casino properties and figure out “how to help unemployed casino workers transition.”

Schwartz said marketing to combat the image of Atlantic City as a failed resort and luring a broader cross-section of potential visitors, in part through an emphasis on non-casino attractions, also should be priorities.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, both Democrats, will attend along with several other ranking legislators. But Lesniak, who authored the bill that legalized Internet gambling in New Jersey, won’t be there.

“They didn’t invite me,” said Lesniak, who of late has been rallying support among colleagues to override Christie’s veto of legislation that would legalize sports betting. Lesniak said he wants to have an override vote take place Sept. 22.

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SOURCE: Bob Jordan
Gannett Statehouse Bureau

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