ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
Mayor Don Guardian and other area officials met to discuss future plans for Atlantic City, including a focused effort to attract more meeting and convention business, during an August 26 press conference held in response to the announced closings of three casinos in September.
“We know we still have difficult waters to navigate, but with the help of the governor and collected support of our elected officials, the private sector and our residents throughout the state, together we rally around Atlantic City,” Guardian said. “People generally love Atlantic City, they have fond memories here, and I know that everyone is rooting for [its] comeback. And we will make our comeback.”
Closings are scheduled to begin this weekend, starting with the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino (Aug. 31, 2014), followed by Revel (Sept. 2, 2014) and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (Sept. 16, 2014). It has been stated that around 1,300 hospitality employees will lose their jobs when these properties close, though various media sources estimate close to 6,000 positions will be cut once all three properties are shut down.
Mayor Guardian announced the creation of an inter-governmental program that includes gap assessment, employment training and job placement for affected Atlantic City residents. He also mentioned new training courses will be made available at Atlantic Cape Community College in the form of a $10 million Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies, which will train up to 1,200 employees annually to help expand their hospitality knowledge and find new work.
In addition to the new job training programs, Mayor Guardian again made reference to the city’s focus on diversification, in order to make up for declining gaming revenue, which he cited as being a result of increased competition from newly added gaming properties in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, alongside an overall national decline in business following the most recent recession.
“This is not the last Atlantic City chapter,” Mayor Guardian said.
An Emphasis on Meetings and Tourism
John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) referenced recent investments by the public-private partnership between the CRDA, the Atlantic City Alliance (ACA) and MEET AC with the state of New Jersey, Atlantic County and the city, to boost nongaming revenue.
“We are on track to drive $1 billion into the tourism district within these first five years, which is all part of our plan that focuses on four key initiatives: attraction visitation, building the visitor experience, targeting meetings and conventions and investing in neighborhoods and job training,” Palmieri said.
He went on to mention MEET AC will be leading a more aggressive strategy to secure business from major conventions, tradeshows and meetings, including the expansion of its sales force. Palmieri also noted $778 million worth of economic development projects already completed, such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville-themed property and a contract to bring back the Miss America pageant, among others.
An additional $475 million worth of developments are on the way, including an 86,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shop–adding almost 300 full- and part-time jobs–alongside the construction of Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, which is expected to add more than 1,300 jobs.
“We also, through the Atlantic City Alliance partnership created from the 2011 legislation, developed a $4 million convention subsidy program to encourage new meetings and help offset costs that conventions typically confront when considering a destination, such as how to pay for transportation and related costs with bringing a large groups to the city,” Palmieri said. “As a result nearly 97,000 group room nights have been contracted through his subsidy during the past three years and we will continue to expand on that number."