Summit Set for Today on the Fate of Atlantic City
What's the future of Atlantic City? Legislative leaders, casino industry officials, local representatives and organized labor will gather in Atlantic City today for a historic summit on the future of the city.
Atlantic City began the year with 12 operating casinos. By the middle of September only eight will remain open. Almost 8,000 people will be jobless as a result.
The Atlantic Club shuttered its doors in January. Showboat closed on Aug. 31, Revel went dark on Sept. 2 and Trump Plaza is scheduled to close on Sept. 16.
State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), who will be in Atlantic City today, said the summit is crucial.
"We can put our heads in the sand and say, 'Oh, it's going to go away,' or we can deal with it. No one is a bigger proponent of Atlantic City than I am," Sweeney said. "The focus has to get away from gambling and (be) more about the other amenities that are there. We made a mistake of putting all of our eggs in one basket in this state and gaming was it."
There are some positive signs for Atlantic City. Hotel occupancies are over 95 percent this year, according to the Atlantic City Alliance. The resort town's retail sector has grown over the past three years. Wages at full-service restaurants in Atlantic County reached estimated levels in 2013 that were 28.3 percent above those in 2010.
"We know that the transformation taking hold in Atlantic City is about more than just gaming and gaming-related attractions," said Gov. Chris Christie in an emailed statement when he announced the summit in August. "Important signs are evident of the progress taking hold in the non-gaming development and economic activity we are seeing in A.C., including businesses opening, attractions being added, and key non-gaming revenue streams rising."
Sweeney said he's glad the governor recognized the need to have a summit.
"I had called for a meeting of stakeholders to address Atlantic City's issues and I'm glad the governor recognized and agreed to it because he followed up with the same discussion and call," Sweeney explained.
The New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission has been charged with making recommendations for reforms Atlantic City following the summit.