Mark Giannantonio, the president and CEO of Resorts Casino, argues that Atlantic City will likely shut down for good if casino gaming expands to North Jersey.
“When North Jersey casinos open and five close, what does Atlantic City do?” asked Giannantonio. “Our number one feeder market is North Jersey.”
Giannantonio was one of the six panelists for the NJ Casino Expansion Compromise Conference held by the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at St. Peter’s University.
This conference was held after last week’s vote by NJ Senate and Assembly to get the measure of expanding the casino gaming to north Jersey on the ballots in November.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) argues that an expansion to North Jersey will only help Atlantic City.
“You want to save the gaming business, you want to create jobs, you want to have a positive effect on the economy and we want to send resources to Atlantic city, that will be spent in a proper way to bring out non-gaming development along with the casino,” said.
Supporting this, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) argued that the gaming dollars that will come to North Jersey will not be from Atlantic City, but rather the dollars lost to the competing cities.
He also pointed out that “Atlantic City will be helped by the half of the paying tax revenues that will go to subsidize their non-gaming development.”
Jim Kirkos, President and CEO of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, also believes with the planned vision of the sports complex – such as the convention center, race track, and the new American Dream shopping center – “this can bring in new dollars for the state of NJ.”
“We think there is an opportunity for us to grow a destination in the north part of the state of NJ and generate really significant tax revenues for NJ and to support Atlantic City and we believe the reinvention of Atlantic in non-gaming resort destination is where the jobs will come from there.”
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian chimed in stating that you want the casino industry but with the industry comes prostitution, crime and drugs.
“To think $20 million of property taxes is going to pay for the cops that are going to maintain the casinos is again, very foolish,” he argued.
Guardian also pointed out the traffic that this would cause on Route 33, Route 1 &9 and the turnpike, noting that there is typically an hour-and-a-half traffic delay during peak hours to the Lincoln Tunnel. He believes this situation will only get worse if a shopping and convention center and casino are thrown into the equation.
“You may want the money, but I don’t think you want the extra hour commute in the morning and the evening.”
So what’s in the plans of Atlantic City?” he questioned.
Atlantic City, in the midst of a budgetary crisis, will be shutting down for three weeks, except for essential personnel, beginning next month (h/t Philly Voice).
“The choice was keeping schools alive and making payments for our bond,” explained Guardian. “We are just making some equitable decisions. Unfortunately, that means closing down the city. Luckily, that means both my police and fire department has agreed to work for the three weeks without pay.”
Guardian did say that there will be a reinvention of Atlantic City eventually, but they just aren’t there yet.
“We need to be a year-round destination and it just very tough. I’m just here to fix the problem and fixing the problem means diversifying our economy.”
Despite the differing views, it really is up to the voters in November to consider whether or not they want the casino gaming industry to expand to North Jersey.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has publicly stated more than once that he supports a casino in Jersey City, but ultimately, will respect the wishes of voters in his city on whether or not to proceed with the plan.
NJTV Chief Correspondent and event moderator Michael Aron ended the panel discussion by pointing out that the polls have indicated there is a narrow 51 to 49 split for voters against North Jersey casinos.