Christie Proposes State Takeover of Atlantic City

Posted on 29 July 2010

In his promise to restore fiscal sanity to the State of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie announced a proposal that would impact the gambling industry.  He proposed to sell off the State’s racetracks and use the resultant funds to reinvest in Atlantic City, whose casinos are struggling to run in the black, and not the red.  We’re talking about profit figures on balance sheets, not the colors on the roulette wheels.

A major renovation that began well over twenty years ago swept Atlantic City, depositing more and glitzier casinos and hotels and nicer supporting businesses (i.e., restaurants) in the surrounding area.  These structures displaced some of the seedier aspects of the shore town, but not all.  Beyond the lights of the Boardwalk onto which many of the casinos open, Atlantic City is still not a place that the average citizen would want to walk at night.  What our Governor aims to do is model Atlantic City upon Las Vegas, bringing more than gaming to the area and transforming the city into more of a family-friendly resort.

Sounds like a plan, right?  Wrong. Christie’s proposal has divided legislatures along regional lines and cast serious doubts in the minds of some New Jerseyans.

Northern New Jersey legislators view the proposal as a plum handed to Southern New Jersey Senator Joseph M. Sweeney (D-3, Gloucester County).  As the New Jersey Senate President, Sweeney hopes to pass the plan.  However, this proposal has Northern legislators crying for equal time.  They are requesting the same consideration be given to the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park sports/concert complexes.

It sounds like the North versus the South.  I thought the Civil War ended at Appomattox, with both sides wanting to divide the spoils.  But if you’re not a legislator and just an Everyday Joe or Jane, how does Christie’s plan affect you?

For one thing, it’s going to affect your pockets and pocketbooks.  The plan to buy out a failing city and restore it to its glorious past relies heavily upon … you guessed it! … taxpayers’ money.  And that’s not the end of it.  The plan compels Atlantic City to cede most of its land directly to the State.  The State, in turn, would set up a commission to manage everything of a public nature that takes place in the municipality.  This includes everything from policing the streets to collecting the garbage.

If the proposal passes, does this mean that Atlantic City’s local government would be abolished?  Who needs corrupt local politicians when we can pass power onto Trenton, with a State Commission to oversee the community — particularly when Trenton is one of the most corrupt capitals in the United States?  Should the proposal pass, the Mayor of Atlantic City and his cabinet would become unemployed.  This would have them collecting unemployment benefits at a time when the State needs every penny to resolve its fiscal problems.

Another thing to take under consideration is the following question.  Would appointing a State Commission to replace elected local officials set a precedent? And, would the current casino revenues paid to the State be jeopardized once the plan is incorporated and implemented by our — cough, cough — oh so honest State legislators? Will this plan be put on a ballot for the electorate to approve, or will it simply be shoved down our throats?

Clearly, there are many concerns and questions to be resolved before endorsing a plan that represents a real gamble with taxpayers’ money.  How odd that our Governor is all for this plan when, in his words spoken in an address to the horse racing industry, he said, “[We] cannot subsidize a failing industry.” Whether it is horse racing, casino gambling, or OTC betting, working class people struggling to keep the roofs over their heads do not have the surplus money to blow on games of chance.

If the State of New Jersey needs more revenue to become solvent, it should not consider bailing out failed cities.  It should go to the heart of the matter by finding ways for the private sector to start employing the legal citizens of New Jersey, with the accent on “legal.”

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