Over the past several years, Atlantic City has undergone an impressive transformation from a casino town into a diversified resort destination. As the vice chairman of the New Jersey General Assembly committee charged with overseeing gaming issues in our state, I am optimistic about the direction in which this transformation is heading.
The beachfront city now caters not only to valued gamers, but also to families and millennials from across the country who want to enjoy both the beautiful and accessible natural landscape as well as the world-class amenities offered along its famous boardwalk. Moreover, Atlantic City’s gaming and tourism economy supports 90,000 employees locally and statewide, making Atlantic City casino resorts one of the largest employers in the state. Therefore, we must proceed cautiously before any attempt to abandon our commitment to Atlantic City and its multibillion-dollar impact on our state’s economy.
New Jersey and its partners in the private sector have collaborated on an innovative master plan for the city that required long-term planning and bipartisan cooperation not often seen in government. We realized that what is good for Atlantic City is good for New Jersey, and this five-year commitment was supported by Gov. Chris Christie and also an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the state Legislature.
To be sure, the subsequent creation of the Atlantic City Alliance (ACA), the new tourism district created by the Casino Reinvestment and Development Authority (CRDA) and the ensuing private investments from local businesses and casinos have forged a new sustainable path for Atlantic City. Thus far, the ACA and CRDA have been successful in implementing key revitalization strategies. To name a few, the Miss America pageant returned to Atlantic City after a prolonged absence, Margaritaville opened at the Resorts Casino, and Boardwalk Hall has been relighted and now features stunning light shows. The $150 million “Do AC!” marketing campaign just entered its second year and is effectively reaching new audiences that are now flocking to the city for the first time.
We should be proud of what we have accomplished in Atlantic City and eager for what the future holds.
Further efforts to diversify the economy include partnerships with higher-education institutions such as Richard Stockton College to open classroom and research space in the city and to bring new mixed-use projects with retailers such as Bass Pro Shops that will realign Atlantic City to meet current urban trends.
Additionally, the introduction of internet gaming will strengthen the New Jersey casino industry.
Sometime in the future, a discussion on the expansion of gaming outside of the borders of Atlantic City may be appropriate, but now is not that time. Our statewide economy would be negatively affected and investor confidence in New Jersey’s ability to plan for the future would be irreparably harmed. New casino markets in the state will create a chilling effect on new capital expenditures in Atlantic City and its existing infrastructure, while cannibalizing gaming revenues within New Jersey.
The state cannot afford to waste the significant investment we have made in Atlantic City. New Jersey’s effort to reboot this major center for economic activity has made too much progress to simply give up now. The potential for long-term success in Atlantic City is real and we cannot turn our backs on this vital American city. Together, we can make the rebirth of this city emblematic of the economic rebirth of our great state.