Archive: July, 2010
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is hardly built like a quarterback, but that is some “Hail Mary” pass he uncorked Wednesday. The question now boils down to this: Will it be completed for the winning touchdown, or dropped, resulting in a devastating loss?
It’s obviously too early to tell for any number of reasons, not least of which is that much of what Christie has proposed has to be okayed by state lawmakers, at least some of whom—like powerful North Jersey Democrat Dick Codey—have long dreamed of video gambling at the Meadowlands (something the Chrstie plan rejects). But overall, Christie is to be commended for taking such a radical approach to save the town.
The best parts of the blueprint include keeping AyCee’s state gaming monopoly and the establishment of state-run tourism districts to battle the entrenched perception (not always unfair) of the city as dirty and unsafe.
Christie and his panel are also to be commended for recognizing that completion of the Revel mega-resort project is crucial to a bright future, and that CRDA (Casino Reinvestment Development Authority) funds should be earmarked only for the city, and not for things like minor league ballparks and aquariums in other parts of the state (to put it another way, what’s earned in Atlantic City should stay in Atlantic City).
But like everything else in life, the Christie Plan is not perfect. For instance, the idea of adding “family-friendly” attractions like more amusement piers doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only would an emphasis on under-21 visitors put Atlantic City in direct competition with other Shore destinations, but it would spoil the sexy, “anything goes” vibe the town has been cultivating with some degree of success in order to draw the 21-39 crowd with discretionary income to burn.
Truth is, AyCee should follow the advice of people like Don Marrandino, who runs the four properties owned by gaming giant Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., and get even looser—e,g, allowing gentleman’s clubs to operate inside casinos. The wilder the better—and besides, naughty and bawdy is in AyCee’s DNA (as the upcoming HBO series, “Boardwalk Empire,” will clearly illustrate).
I’m also unclear about why the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which is in charge of marketing the resort, will be eliminated under the plan. The folks there have done an admirable job, considering their annual budget is pretty much what their Las Vegas counterparts spend on catering for their TV commercial shoots.
Some of the town’s best and brightest work for the ACCVA. To lose their experience, talent and dedication to A.C. seems counterproductive at this crucial juncture.
Ultimately, no one can predict to what degree the Christie Plan will succeed. It could turn out to be a fatal disaster. But I see it as being like a life-saving, but risky surgical procedure:
Sure, the operation might kill the patient, but doing nothing will definitely have that result.
And that would be the biggest catastrophe of all.