BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Asm. Burzichelli Discusses Tactics to Revive Atlantic City

Legislators are looking for ways to help boost economic activity in Atlantic City and a new plan calls for horse racing on the beach. Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he hopes the novel idea will help bring excitement to both Atlantic City and the horse racing industry. He also discussed Revel’s future after bankruptcy as well as the new state budget and the state’s financial future.

Burzichelli said horse racing on the beach is an exciting, fun concept. He explained it would be a sprint race, not an oval like traditional horse racing, and spectators will likely be positioned in bleachers in front of the boardwalk. “The legislature spoke and said that we think this is something that would be a value to both the Atlantic City excitement and the horse racing industry,” he said.

According to Burzichelli, the idea for the beach race came out of looking for novel ways to promote the resort area. He said the race would happen in October, a time of year that typically isn’t as busy for Atlantic City.

“This builds off of the cycle coming out of Miss America into October, likely on the Columbus Day weekend approach,” he said. “And of course it’s driven by a 700-year-old event that takes place in Italy. Although it won’t mimic that entirely — that event’s a little bit rough. This is going to be a real sport because as it’s being described to me, it’s going to be a sprint race. But the legislature’s involvement comes because pari-mutuel wagering may be offered.”

With regard to Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, Burzichelli said he believes it’s heading in the right direction since emerging from bankruptcy. “We all understand what happened around us with competition and those things you can’t control. All you can control is what is in your reach,” he said. “Atlantic City has not had to reinvent itself just one time. It’s happened many times over the years. This is another transition period. But all the indicators for the amenities other than gaming are very strong. And the report card of people who visit the city is also very encouraging.”

Burzichelli said internet gaming is coming and will be another dimension for Atlantic City casinos. “The amenities, the shopping, the restaurants, they’re the things that are going to provide the growth potential for the region for Atlantic City and for the state in very important numbers to our treasury,” he said.

The new fiscal year has begun for the state and New Jersey has a budget that was approved and signed by Gov. Chris Christie without incident, though some lawmakers have expressed disappointment on some topics. Burzichelli said it’s important for people to remember that the spending plan changes throughout the year as more information becomes available.

“The Constitution requires we have a balanced budget. We have a balanced budget starting. But as I remind everyone, the budget is a document of estimates. You don’t get all the revenue on the first day of the new year. You don’t spend all the money on the first day that the budget is enacted,” Burzichelli said. “It’s a living, breathing document. It’s going to be changed and moved around over 12 months.”

While Burzichelli said he would’ve liked to have seen some additional issues given priority during the budget process, he understands it’s a negotiation process.

The Christie administration has been touting the fact that state revenues have exceeded projections in the last six months, but Burzichelli pointed out that the overly optimistic projections had to be revised.

“The revenue’s exceeding projections that had to be revised because the original projections were not able to be met and it was clear they were not going to be met. And that gave us some fixes as the year closed out. We’re encouraged collectively that there is growth. We’d like the growth to be bigger. We think in general, New Jersey’s economy has lagged a bit behind some of our sister states in the region,” Burzichelli said. “But we’re making great effort in policy decisions on the legislative side to try and make New Jersey an even better place to do business because business drives jobs.”

Going forward, Burzichelli said legislators will likely have to make additional budget cuts to ensure the state’s key obligations are met.

“There’s not an unlimited flow of resources coming to the state and there’s going to be more and more demands on this budget as we continue to make fuller payments into the pension plan and meet … really core obligations and they’re gonna eat up bigger parts of the budget as these next couple years unfold. So there’s concern and there should be concern. We have to be responsible in the approach that we deal with this money,” Burzichelli said.