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A.C. can make a comeback

Irv Randolph | 12/1/2014, noon
Atlantic City is struggling.
Atlantic City DOAC.COM

Atlantic City is struggling.

photo

Irv Randolph

In November, the owner of the beleaguered Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort filed court papers saying it will close this month, making it the fifth of the city's 12 casinos to shut down this year.

Trump Entertainment Resorts said its board has approved a shutdown of the casino by Dec. 12. It had threatened to close by then if its main union didn't drop its appeal of a court-ordered cost-savings package.

Company officials said the closing will happen because it has not received the state and local tax breaks it sought in a bid to keep the casino open.

The Taj Mahal's 3,000 workers will soon join some 8,000 other Atlantic City casino workers who have lost their jobs this year.

Mayor Don Guardian said he knows this is a difficult time for all the people who'll be out of work.

"I want them to know that the city of Atlantic City did everything they could to help keep the Trump Taj Mahal open," he said. "However, (the company and its officials) still must pay their fair share of taxes, just like our residents do."

At press time, Trump Entertainment was pursuing a longshot plan to let billionaire investor Carl Icahn exchange $286 million in debt for ownership of the company. He would invest $100 million into it, but only if the company gets $175 million in state and local tax breaks.

Atlantic City has been caught in an eight-year downward spiral caused mainly by the proliferation of casinos in neighboring states.

That is partially due to competition created by the Pennsylvania gambling industry. Now our neighbors across the river do not have to cross the bridge to gamble. And with the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission last month approving a second casino in Philadelphia competition is only going to get tougher.

When the first Pennsylvania casino opened in late 2006, Atlantic City's annual casino revenues were $5.2 billion. Last year they were $2.86 billion, and they will be significantly less than that this year.

Gov. Chris Christie has appointed a panel to recommend ways to help the city and its remaining casinos, including tax relief, additional aid and an emergency manager to help control the city's finances.

Atlantic City can be revived.

To do so the city can not be in retreat. The city must continue to promote its assets, of which there are many.

Atlantic City has more to offer than just gaming. It has a Boardwalk that is second to none. It has a beach which Pennsylvania and Las Vegas can not claim. It has first-class entertainment. It offers top-notch shopping.

Atlantic City must become an entertainment destination which includes gaming.

“We want to offer high quality entertainment to vacationers—shows, concerts and major events in Atlantic City, said Mayor Guardian.

“We have a lot to offer in Atlantic City and we want to make it more of a resort community and not a gambling mecca.”

I believe the mayor is right.

Despite its current struggles, I place my bet on Atlantic City making a comeback.

Irv Randolph is the editor and co-publisher of South Jersey Journal.