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N.J. Ponders Taking Control
of Atlantic City Finances

Also Considers Legalizing Casino Gambling in Northern N.J. to Augment Steadily Declining Atlantic City Casino Revenues


After years of failed efforts to bolster the financial health of Atlantic City, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the Democratic controlled state legislature propose to put a measure on the November ballot to add casino gambling in the more populous and wealthy northern suburbs of New Jersey, and siphon one-third of those profits to Atlantic City. Casino revenue has steadily declined in Atlantic City since 2006.

Various news outlets are reporting that New Jersey lawmakers are discussing to propose a bill called the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act," and that some of the legislators are eyeing the state's seaside gambling resort as what you might call its "first customer."

N.J. Governor Chris Christie has said that Atlantic City is critical to New Jersey's recovery. If Atlantic City were a patient you'd say the patient was in critical condition, and the prognosis not good. This East Coast gambling mecca (pop. 39,558), out there on Absecon Island, the inspiration for that infernal and seemingly never ending game (Monopoly) that most of us Baby Boomers used to play as kids, and second only to Coney Island as a touchstone of Atlantic Coast beachside nostalgia, has a property-tax base that has eroded from $20.5 billion to $7.3 billion (64 percent) over the last five years. Four of 12 casinos closed in 2014. Revenues peaked in 2006, but have steadily declined every year since.

Such dismal numbers scream distress and seem to qualify Atlantic City as a candidate for stabilization and recovery. Bloomberg reports the city faces a shortfall of $90 million next year. The city's budge is $262 million.

If state officials determine (classify) the city as in financial distress, the bill could transfer the city's governing duties and powers over to the state finance board for 15 years, and grant it the power to amend or cancel contracts, and sell city-owned assets and properties. Well, that's one idea, but some legislators don't believe that handing off running of the city to an even larger bureaucracy is the answer.

To avert such a draconian step, or at least to delay it (don't say the "B" just yet), New Jersey lawmakers propose to ask voters on the November ballot to expand gambling to northern New Jersey and give a piece (one-third) 601of that action (revenue) to Atlantic City. Note: Part of Christie's five-year turnaround plan for the city was more tax incentives, a state-run tourism district and promoting more nongambling businesses.

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July 17, 2019, 8:22 pm PDT

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