Atlantic City will now be taken over by New Jersey State officials for a time frame that could last up to five years.
The state of New Jersey will now be taking over Atlantic City after no progress has been made in plans to save the city from the floundering gaming industry. For months now, there has been talk of a state takeover with officials of Atlantic City trying their best to make changes that would avoid the takeover from happening. However, the takeover is imminent after the administration for Chris Christie has approved the move.
The main reason behind the decision has to be the failure of a referendum on Tuesday’s ballot that would have allowed two new casinos to be created in the northern region of the state. The referendum would have moved gambling up north and ended the decade’s long monopoly of Atlantic City. The proposal was one of contention as many did not want to see gambling expanded. Those in favor felt that new gaming options would keep the state competitive as well as provide revenues for Atlantic City, helping the seaside gambling town get back on their feet.
As the vote drew near, studies showed that residents of the state were not interested in seeing gambling expanded and the vote outcome rings true. Overwhelmingly, residents voted NO and the expansion will not take place.
Takeover in the Works
Now, it seems that officials of the state are tired of waiting on Atlantic City leaders to make a move and are making one of their own. The Local Finance Board have voted 5-0 to approve the takeover of Atlantic City which will last as long as five years. According to Governor Chris Christie, this is the best way for the city to avoid bankruptcy.
Local officials will no longer have authority for financial decisions as well as in other areas. Timothy Cunningham, the Director of the Department of Community Affairs Division of Local Government Services will head the takeover and is unsure as to what the mayor and council members will be able to retain as far as duties are concerned.
Gambling Expansion Efforts May Continue
Despite the outcome of the vote on the referendum, proponents of a gambling expansion in the state are not giving up. Paul Sarlo, a state senator, commented that shifting from a plan for two casinos to one may be the appropriate step to seeing changes take place. The official announced that a one-casino ballot question may be put forth by next November for voters to choose if one venue would be acceptable. The proposal would include adding a gaming venue to the Meadowlands Sports Complex which is located in East Rutherford.
Sarlo stated to the media that in the early stages, stakeholders were interested in a possible casino in Middlesex County as well as Sussex County and other areas. The senator feels that voters were scared off due to the fear of the unknown as to where the casinos would be located. It is too early to tell if voters would be opposed based on an exact location with more information.
Ralph Caputo, an assemblyman of the state, is in agreement with the senator in regards to the point that the question on the ballot was campaigned poorly. Caputo also stated that little transparency in the details led to the outcome. Voters wanted more information on what would be required of operators such as tax rates and how money would be dispersed.
For now, we know that efforts will not stall but it will surely be some time before any new efforts begin. It will also be interesting to see how Atlantic City fares after being takeover by the state, if this really is the smartest decision for the city.