The casino to campus metamorphosis is only one strategy for saving Atlantic City. The closing of the Taj Mahal next month brings the number of jobs lost just this year to 11,000. A governor’s advisory commission is recommending an emergency manager be brought in to reform property taxes, schools and pensions and consolidate services like police and fire. Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the Taj Mahal casino is closing because it is an under-performing property.
“It was symbolic of some other the other gaming properties that closed,” said Guardian. “A property that didn’t reinvest in their property, took all of the profits that they made, not only out of that particular property but out of Atlantic City. And so from the gem that it was 25 years ago, it’s in very sad shape today, but has great potential.”
Guardian said that casinos and resorts such as the Borgata, Harrah’s, Golden Nugget, Resorts and Tropicana have reinvested in their properties over the last couple of years and that they are flourishing. He said that if Taj Mahal had done the same, considering it has a great location and features, it would be a great entertainment spot with a casino.
Recently, Gov. Chris Cristie’s Advisory Committee has made proposals for Atlantic City and how it can prosper. Guardian said that he is lucky to have the support of the governor in helping turn Atlantic City around and get beyond just gaming.
“That support continues and so we’re very heartfelt here in Atlantic City to have the governor have a summit specifically designed to helping us through these troubled waters that we’re now in,” Guardian said. “We’re a good cash cow in Atlantic City and we’re just wounded, but we can come back.”
Guardian said that he is not critical of anything that the governor has suggested, but he took issue with Jon Hanson — chairman of Christie’s oversight committee — using the term “emergency manager” in making a comparison with Pontiac, Michigan, which uses that term. Guardian said that the term used in New Jersey is state monitor and that the state has one already in Ed Sasdelli, who has been working with Atlantic City since January.
Guardian said that he had a role in the proposals in the committee. He said all of the information came from the city and that he agrees with all of the data that was collected.
Guardian said that he has met with Hanson and that he expressed some of his concerns.
“I said we need to reduce the cost of government in Atlantic City and we need some additional state aid,” said Guardian. “We need to reduce the cost of education in Atlantic City and the Board of Ed needs some state aid. We need to have a new way to determine an assessment for how casinos pay taxes and we need to ask the state to consider using some of the funds that the gaming industry pays and allow it to be used for debt reduction for the city. That’s what we really talked about, plus where we move this transition from gaming to.”