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Former Gambling Resort Opens the Door for Schools and Conference Centers

Nov 17, 2014 - by Monica Erdei
Snowboat to open the door for schools and conference centers

Snowboat to open the door for schools and conference centers

Atlantic City hasn’t had much luck this year, but authorities are looking for ways to “stop the bleeding” and help the city recover financially.

The former gambling kingdom just can’t catch a break. By the end of this year, Atlantic City may see its fifth casino sink, causing unemployment rates to go up yet again. As the city is suffering from the closures, authorities are looking for a way to bounce back by completely rebuilding it.

There are a number of closed shops and casinos in the city, but if you think about how hard Atlantic City has had it this year, you’ll be quite pleasantly impressed with the amount of new construction here. Right across from the now-bankrupt Trump Plaza, a Bass Pro outdoor goods store will rise over an entire city block.

According to online gambling news, New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority offered land and $12 million in cash to help develop the project which will employ 290 people. Mayor Don Guardian says the city has become too dependent on gambling revenues, but it’s time for a change.

“The city was happy, because it provided decent jobs with benefits and it paid the taxes, but we lost everything else. You lose your whole entrepreneurial spirit,” he said in an interview.

NPR: As Casinos Fold, Stakes Are High For Atlantic City Transformation

Just as Las Vegas did two decades ago, Atlantic City is trying to become less dependent on casino profits and branch out more into entertainment. It’s looking to become a destination for conferences and various events, not just a place where you can gamble.

Caesars Entertainment said it took nine million pounds of steel to build the structure of the new Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City, which has received substantial backing from the developer and from the casino reinvestment authority. Rick Mazer, regional president of Caesars Entertainment said: “This is the business that I think will evolve and regrow Atlantic City.”

However, some experts are skeptical of the project’s potential to succeed. Oliver Cooke, an economist at nearby Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, has his doubts. “You simply are not going to consume your way out of the morass that you’re in,” he explained. “Doing things like building more retail, building more convention centers, has a very, very limited upside.”

Meanwhile, authorities are talking about reselling, reopening and repurposing some casinos. Just last week, Stockton College announced it was going to buy the old Showboat property and The Revel’s new owners are allegedly planning to make a new investment and reopen the venue.

But Atlantic City needs more than just commercial projects. Mayor Don Guardian hopes to see new residents move in and rebuild the city. “Then we’ve gotta work on our school system,” he continues. “But I gotta fix the city first, find jobs, get taxes, reduce cost of government, make the place pretty, and then we’ll work on the schools. I like the challenge.”

Washington Times: Taxes, schools, casinos key to Christie AC plan

Atlantic City officials are trying to come up with ways to get the economy up and running again. Governor Chris Christie has commissioned a plan calling for more predictable taxes for casinos, temporarily freezing taxes on non-gambling property and halting payments on employee pension plans, as well as offering more support for schools that reduce costs.

The commission appointed to study Atlantic City’s future prospects has released a set of recommendations, but the governor hasn’t committed himself to anything yet. According to the commission, the city should have an emergency manager holding “extraordinary supervisory powers” over expenses and taxes.

Experts added that Atlantic City should form a public-private development corporation, similar to the one that helped New Brunswick. An essential part of the plan is property tax reform.

“Extraordinary state and local support is required in the transition phase of the Atlantic City revitalization strategy focusing on immediate activities with a high probability of success, including balancing the municipal and school cost structure toward ‘new normal,’” panel Chairman Jon Hanson wrote.

The report said: “High effective rates and a rapidly declining tax base have created an immense financial burden for residents, local businesses and the casino industry,” the report read. The “entire Atlantic City gaming industry is at risk as each incremental casino closure results in a greater tax increase than revenue increase for the surviving casinos.”

If freed from making pension payments for three years, the city could save up to $71.1 million, while in the same time reducing the need to borrow money. The plan proposes regionalizing the police and fire departments, thus cutting costs by $25 million a year.

The $30 million used by the Atlantic City Alliance to promote the city should be redirected to the new development corporation, ACDevCo, the commission recommended.

Reuters: New Jersey college buys Atlantic City’s closed Showboat casino

The shuttered Showboat Atlantic City gambling resort formerly operated by Caesars Entertainment could be bought by a college in southern New Jersey. The Richard Stockton College wants to transform the 1.4 million square foot property completely, by turning it into a campus.

The building sits on 28 beachfront acres and holds 1,329 hotel rooms. The deal is subject to due diligence checks, but the terms of the contract were not disclosed yet.

Stockton president Herman Saatkamp said: “Our intent is to engage in a project that enhances Stockton’s educational growth, offerings and cost-containment while at the same time brings new educational opportunities to Atlantic City.”

Although the casino resort was still making profit, Caesars closed it in August. The venues was reportedly sacrificed in an attempt to consolidate the city’s deteriorating gaming market.

Caesars CEO Gary Loveman is hopeful that the new agreement could help steer the local economy in a new direction. “The transformation and revitalization of Atlantic City requires the addition of a diverse set of reasons for people to come visit,” he told reporters.

In 2010, Stockton College bought the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township for $20 million. Part of the property is used to house students and train them in hospitality.

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