Tag Archive: revel

AC on the precipice as Christie drags his feet

In Gov. Christie’s pell-mell rush toward the presidency one of many crises he left unattended by the roadside has been action to help Atlantic City and County. It is not as if the woes of this area came upon us suddenly. Gaming revenue peaked in 2006 at $5.21 billion, but with competition from other states it dropped each year to  $2.74 billion in 2014. The dominos began falling in 2014 when the Atlantic Club Casino shuttered in January, soon followed by Showboat, Trump Plaza, and most spectacularly the $2 billion Revel. Atlantic City tax revenue decreased precipitously, unemployment zoomed upward, bond ratings tanked to junk status, social services were overwhelmed, and despair was left in its wake. Now if action is not taken quickly there is the possibility of AC bankruptcy. Like cancer it could spread to other struggling NJ cities dependent on good ratings to finance bonds and loans.

We have a state government and its Division of Local Government Services established to step in and prevent such a calamity. However, the boss is otherwise occupied, like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Yes, we need private business creativity and city/county solutions but the magnitude of the crisis calls out for state action. After five years in office all we have seen is Christie’s failed 2010-2011 AC revival plan that included tax breaks to restart construction of Revel. That was followed recently by more foot dragging with three Christie “summits” in AC, which included the installation of a financial team but little concrete action.

AC on the precipice as Christie drags his feet

In Gov. Christie’s pell-mell rush toward the presidency one of many crises he left unattended by the roadside has been action to help Atlantic City and County. It is not as if the woes of this area came upon us suddenly. Gaming revenue peaked in 2006 at $5.21 billion, but with competition from Pennsylvania and other states it dropped each year to to $2.74 billion in 2014. The dominos began falling in 2014 when the Atlantic Club Casino shuttered in January, soon followed by Showboat, Trump Plaza, and most spectacularly the $2 billion Revel. Atlantic City tax revenue decreased precipitously, unemployment zoomed upward, bond ratings tanked to junk status, social services were overwhelmed, and despair was left in its wake. Now if action is not taken quickly there is the possibility of AC bankruptcy. Like cancer it could spread to other struggling NJ cities dependent on good ratings to finance bonds and loans.

We have a state government and a Department of Community Affairs established to step in and prevent such a calamity. However, its boss is otherwise occupied, like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Yes, we need private business creativity and city/county solutions but the magnitude of the crisis calls out for state action. After five years in office all we have seen is Christie’s failed 2010-2011 AC revival plan that included tax breaks to restart construction of Revel. That was followed recently by more foot dragging with three key Christie “summits” in AC, which included the installation of a financial team but little concrete action and no visible sign of improvement in the economy or well-being of the area.  

Senate President Steve Sweeney, determined to prevent AC from “becoming Detroit,” in November proposed a package of bills. He asked that Christie get involved and offer support before the legislature votes on them. There has been no word from Christie on the matter. Christie has provided AC extra time to repay a loan but has been relying on the emergency financial consultants he hired in January and ordered to find fixes by March. At the end of March the consultants issued a report but said they needed another three months. Now time is running out.

This weekend some of you will attend the NJ Democratic State Committee Conference in AC (at the more remote, cloistered  Harrahs)  and further into the summer some of you will visit AC. Take a stroll on the upper end of the boardwalk where three casinos closed, drive or walk along lower Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, and talk with residents, business people, local officials and social service providers about what is going on and what is needed here. Christie of course just helicopters in, attends a private “summit,” and helicopters out after a brief pronouncement. He needs to do more and do so quickly. And we should to tell him so.

Gov. Christie acts by fiat in AC with disturbing results

Gov. Christie in order to get his way can act with broad bipartisan/popular support (Opioid Antidote and Overdose Prevention Act which was overwhelmingly approved by the legislature), obtain narrow bi-partisan support (half-baked Dreamers Act), arrange a pre-negotiated agreement with legislative leadership (tenure for our Chief Justice in exchange for a Republican Supreme court judge), remove line items costs from the legislature’s budget bill (he does so every year), veto bills (his vetoes have never been over-ridden), go to court (he failed to quash marriage equality and Fair Share housing claims, but succeeded in reducing the pension payment last year), and with the vast power of his office he can act by fiat.

In the case of Atlantic City he chose to act by fiat. In his press release he provided little reason for imposing an Emergency Manager and no clear vision regarding the anticipated outcome. Rather than offer more guidance and additional financial assistance, he turned the matter over to a hired manager. He can now continue his quest for the presidency paying little attention to AC problems. In his Executive Order he rehashed some of the already well-known financial issues. More importantly he hinted at approaches which deeply disturbed credit agencies and will bring concerns from unions, creditors, and bondholders with a potential negative state-wide impact.

QoTD: “An Unemployed Congressional District”

Quote of the Day goes to Bill Hughes, candidate for Congress in CD2 against Frank LoBiondo:

South Jersey is not a Democratic congressional district. South Jersey is not a Republican congressional district. South Jersey is an unemployed congressional district. Atlantic County was just placed last among 372 metropolitan areas in job gains and losses! It is obvious new leadership is needed.

The quote, via his Hughes for Congress Facebook page was responding to the disastrous economic news as area residents bleed casino jobs by the thousands. And it was a call to action for his campaign.

Revel Without a Cause

Christie’s big gamble on the Revel Casino comes up snake eyes for NJ citizens and pension funds.

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 9.37.31 AMThe headline says it all. The gleaming new jewel of Atlantic City, the hoped-for savior of a town that makes its living off of hope, off of worshipping golden-and silver and green-idols will sink slowly into the sunset on September 1, and along with it thousands of jobs, millions in lost tax revenue, and billions in debt.

A stark contrast to the tacky kitsch and schmaltz of casinos like the Trump Taj Mahal, Showboat and Caesars Palace, the sleek, sophisticated Revel was supposed to usher in a new era in Atlantic City’s revival and the state’s casino gaming experience. animal-beautiful-sea-creatures-but-dangerous-electric-jellyfish-bright-blue-water-hd-wallpapers-electric-jellyfish-band-electric-jellyfish-battle-electric-jellyfish-animals-electric-jellyfish-life-aqu-520x390An undulating steel blue wave cut by a giant shark fin, the Revel is the perfect metaphor for a pastime that dulls the senses like the beautiful but dangerous jellyfish so the great white can go in for the kill. Only this time the victim is not merely the hapless gambler with their bucket of quarters and free buffet pass; it’s the house-the people of New Jersey.  

The NJ Casino Windfall Is Dead. Long Live Atlantic City! – Part II

Atlantic City, once called Absegami, inhabited by Indians, high sand dunes and black snakes, has had its ups and downs. Now it is a casino town suffering the slings and arrows of an over-saturated northeast gaming market (See Part I) and facing the likely closure of three more casinos with over 6,000 employees to be let go within four weeks.  

SNAPSHOTS OF PEOPLE AND PLACES

Beginning at the southern-most casino on the boardwalk Saturday I passed the Atlantic Club which closed in January, terminated about 2,000 jobs, and left the area around it emptier and quieter with less business for the shops. Caesars purchased the property to reduce local competition, with the plan that it would not be used as a casino.

Moving north, next is the Tropicana, purchased cheaply by Carl Icahn with no debt and operating successfully through a good mix of services for the wealthy and not so wealthy and the older and younger clients. It also gets healthy income from its non-casino shops, entertainment and other services.  

Next comes Trump Plaza which plans to close in a few weeks and let go 1,000 employees. Along the side of the casino where workers come out to take a break, I talked with a number of them. A man in a suit (a sign he is on a salary, whereas others typically are hourly workers) said he was going to be transferred to the Trump Taj Mahal. A kitchen employee said there would be too many people chasing the same jobs so he was going to leave the area. A cocktail waitress, who gets no severance, said she had worked there 25 years, has two children and a small 401 (k) plan. She will wait a while and see if she can find a job. A bar tender who has been there over ten years says AC has to be more family-friendly and offer young people more nightlife (dance clubs with DJ’s.) He adds that the tips are good in season, but he is going to Florida where he thinks he has better prospects. A waiter says 95% of the employees are totally dependent on their wages and will have a tough time getting re-employed. A chef in his top hat with a wife and three kids thinks he will find a job if not in AC then in a casino in a neighboring state. A restaurant supervisor has a wife and a mortgage and is not optimistic, but will try first to find local work. These employees are not overtly angry but rather resigned to what is about to happen, with a feeling that they are not being treated fairly.

More snapshots below the fold

That moment when I agree with Americans for Prosperity (no, not really)

We now know for sure Showboat Casino Hotel will close Aug. 31 – the third failing casino property of the year following the Atlantic Club being chopped up and sold for parts and the continuing money pit that is Revel Casino. And Americans for Prosperity (AFP) – the Koch Bros-funded group that right-winger (and handicapped white guy and cancer support group leader and serial candidate Steve Lonegan used to run in New Jersey – has some thoughts:

In a statement today, they complain about the  all the “subsidies, tax breaks, and taxpayer-funded low-interest loans in the world (that) are not going to bring Atlantic City back”.  Yeah, baby. They call Revel “an epic bust,” and decry the “corporate welfare” the state’s throwing at AC. The state “needs to stop trying to micromanage it back into relevance. Whoa, harsh. Better not tell the folks on AC’s new gay beach that.

I’ve got a problem with corporate welfare, too. More on that in a bit. And I’ve always been uncomfortable with New Jersey’s interest in using public money to create (or prop up) opportunities for working joes to gamble. It’s OK entertainment if you’re in control, and I know it has fans. But it also suckers the poor. Ditto the lottery, not a fan.

But let’s get clear on a couple things here. The casinos, as a labor leader at Unite HERE Local 54 says, never cared about Atlantic City. The casinos were a glass wall that divided the city from its own shore, and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) soon shifted focus from housing there to casino/hotel-centered projects aimed at making AC competitive. And the surrounding areas (many of them mostly white) boomed while the city – largely black and with unaddressed hard-core unemployment, and problems that go with it – didn’t.

But that’s not why AFP objects. They don’t care how many people – many of them unionized – are going to lose their jobs this summer. When you get down to it, AFP barely recognizes unionized people as people. Atlantic City is easy for them to take a shot at because for years many of the politicians running looking after it have been Democrats (new mayor Don Guardian’s not a Dem, but he and his gay beach aren’t exactly their kind of Republican).

But beyond that, it’s funny that it’s AFP trying to claim the high ground against corporate welfare.  

March NJ jobless numbers – NJ lagging behind

You remember this guy, right? The headstrong governor here in the land of make-believe who propagandized the happy-talk of Jersey Comeback with banners, theme music and videos and jacked-up Republican campaign rallies passed off to the taxpayers public town halls in their best interest. How’s that working for ya? Christie quietly retired the banners a couple years ago, and knew better than to utter that phrase in his Republican National Convention speech that same year. Christie’s trying to make a case for himself as viable on the national scene beyond the RGA, tougher now because of the scandals. But we’re still left with the impact of some piss-poor state economic decisions over recent years, many of them his.

Unemployment is up here, though the state is using terms like “flat” and “small dips” to describe it. New Jersey lost about 1,300 jobs in March, bringing NJ’s unemployment to 7.2%. That’s up from 7.1% this time last year, and lagging half a point behind the national rate of 6.7%.

Chris Christie’s Boondoggle

 photo Revel_Atlantic_City_from_boardwalk_zps01e4de4b.jpg

Promoted by Rosi.

Cross-posted from FireDogLake

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie received the endorsement of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) many in the media and national political circles just took it as further evidence of Christie’s bi-partisan appeal. A politician so popular even unions would endorse him. But they were missing the story. LIUNA’s endorsement was actually due to one of New Jersey’s biggest boondoogles, the now named Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City which has cost the taxpayers millions.

While the Christie campaign spun the endorsement as a validation of Christie’s record on helping the private sector, LIUNA leadership had no trouble noting the publicly funded quid pro quo.

[LIUNA Leader Ray] Pocino cited the GOP governor’s accomplishments, including his signing the Higher Education Bond act, which he said will lead to more than $1 billion in construction, including new classrooms and labs; authorization of the Transportation Trust Fund for roads and bridges improvement totaling an estimated $5 billion, and his support for the Revel Casino project and the Bayonne Bridge.

It also probably didn’t hurt that Christie appointed Pocino to a seat on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Revel has been, to put it lightly, a disaster. Originally imagined as more of a resort than a casino, Revel cost $2.4 billion to open. Even before Revel opened it was considered a high risk investment in a city already on the decline due to gambling competition from Delaware and Pennsylvania. Progressives opposed state investments in the project which came during the same time Governor Christie was cutting education and healthcare services for women. Christie invested $261 million of New Jersey tax money via credits as Morgan Stanley backed out of Revel fearing it was a loser.

UPDATE: Christie’s Failed $260 Million Gamble

Last March, Chris Christie went all-in for the Revel casino in Atlantic City:

During a tour of the sparkling new building on the ocean’s edge, Gov. Chris Christie said the new Revel casino-hotel represents the key to the revitalization of long-struggling Atlantic City.

The governor said Tuesday the $2.4 billion Revel is one of the most spectacular resorts he’s ever seen and expects it will motivate other Atlantic City casinos to revitalize their properties.

“I think that one of the things that Revel will be is a catalyst for additional modernization and investment by the other casinos to say, listen, if we grow more people here coming to the region and we’re offering something that looks nice further down the boardwalk, maybe people will want to look there as well, ” Christie said.

The state provided $260 million in tax incentives to get the project completed.

For the last three years, we’ve heard over and over from Christie that we simply don’t have money for things like ARC and public employee health insurance and pension payments and schools and women’s health and…

But Revel was an “investment.” It would “create jobs” and “boost tax revenues” and “bring back AC.” How’s that working out?