Atlantic City has an image problem that needs to be addressed through social and economic revitalization. That was the takeaway from an annual forum hosted by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber at the Atlantic City Sheraton Convention Center Hotel, attended by members of the local business community and six execs from the city’s nine casinos.
The Press of Atlantic City (POAC) reports that the consensus among casino execs was that neither the state, the city, nor the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority were doing enough to improve the perception of the New Jersey resort town.
“Stability in local government and cleanup of the city is vital,” said Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa President and COO Marcus Glover, as reported by POAC.
Joe Lupo, president of the Hard Rock, said the casinos are doing all they can to build non-gaming amenities to reinvent Atlantic City as a family-friendly destination. But neglectful politicians are hampering their efforts.
“Our buildings can’t be surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes, the lights need to work, the Boardwalk needs to be fixed, the beaches need to be replenished,” Lupo said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the city…We need to revitalize the city, because it just hasn’t been done in the past.”
Mayor Not Happy
It’s not the first time Atlantic City’s casino sector has expressed its frustration with local government. A campaign to radically overhaul the city council by adopting a municipal-manager model of government is currently spearheaded by Resorts Casino owner Morris Bailey, among others.
The municipal-manager model would include radically reducing the role of the mayor to a largely administrative one in a bid to curtail corruption in city government.
When quizzed by POAC about the casino executives’ comments this week, Mayor Marty Small Sr. branded them “another attempt to indirectly sway voters for the change of government.”
“I’m not interested in solving problems in the media,” Small said. “I’m about solutions. The residents of Atlantic City believe the casinos could do more to contribute. But we will save that for another day.”
Showboat Won’t Float
In a separate issue, the casino executives expressed concern about plans to reopen the Showboat as a casino.
Many felt the city’s gaming market was “right-sized” when it went down to seven casinos after the Showboat, the Trump Plaza, the Trump Taj Mahal, and Revel closed their doors. But two of those have now reopened as the Hard Rock and Ocean Resort.
Now, real-estate developer Bart Blatstein plans to bring back gaming to the Showboat, and the industry fears a return to market saturation.
Ron Baumann, regional president of Caesars Entertainment, told the forum that the last thing Atlantic City needed was another casino.
“It would be purely cannibalistic to do something along those lines,” he added.
On Tuesday, Caesars bought the Atlantic City Pier from Blatstein, which the developer said would allow him to focus completely on his plans for the Showboat.