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.