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A majority of the top executives at Atlantic City want to make the city a cleaner and safer one in order to help the image to then help business conditions.
At the recent Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce sponsored panel eight of the nine casino executives made their thoughts known about the current issues for the Atlantic City gaming market. One of the issues that kept coming up was cleaning up the city in terms of crime and unsightly areas to improve the image of the city in order to help investment in the future.
Hard Rock President Joe Lupo stated, “Our buildings can’t be surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes. The street lights need to work. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. The city needs to be in better shape. Go out and buy the biggest bulldozer the county has to offer, and you could probably make a lot of positive changes.”
Almost all in attendance at the panel were in agreement that they are not satisfied with the current conditions in Atlantic City. The public forum was different than in the past was only aired privately. A couple of weeks ago Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International; said that Atlantic City, is going in the wrong direction and the city is “worse off than when he bought the casino property”.
Mark Giannantonio, who is the president of Resorts sated, “We all agree we’re not pleased with where we are with the Tourism District.” He was talking about the downtown area of Atlantic City where the casino properties are located. He said if crime was reduced in the city, by a noticeable amount, that it could increase visitation to Atlantic City by 20% to 30%.
Steve Callender is a senior vice president at Eldorado Gaming, which is the parent company of Tropicana, complained that near the Tropicana Atlantic City there are unrepaired “three-foot potholes.”
Borgata President Marcus Glover stated, “There’s still a lot of blight. You need to get some wins and get some earned media about the positive things happening in Atlantic City.”
Ron Baumann is the regional president of Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Atlantic City casinos of Caesars, Harrah’s, and Bally’s, stated that the city has not seen improvement in a significant manner in the last decade. This despite the fact that there has been “ample opportunity and money” available. He went onto say that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which is a New Jersey agency that heads Atlantic City planning and development, has to do more in terms of aiding social problems within the city.
Matt Doherty is the executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority said the city is working having two local agencies dealing with social service issues. He added that his agency gives funds of $3 million annually to fit the bill for special police officers.
Marty Small is the mayor of Atlantic City and it is no surprise he does not want a change in city government that has been proposed where a city manager would take the place of the mayor. He said the criticism towards Atlantic City by the casino executives was their attempt to bring about this change by getting the public to back their stance. Small stated, “I’ve been mayor for a little over three months and we are doing a great job. My administration is committed to safe and clean, and we’ve shown that in a big way.”
The voters will make the final decision about the proposed change in city government on March 31 of this year. The proposal is backed by Morris Bailey, who is a retired New Jersey senator and currently heads the main casino workers union in Atlantic City.