People from all over the state came to hear the Democrats' Gaming Summit. It was obviously anticipated there would be 250 people present because that was the number of seats available, but they had to open a partition for the more than 500 attendees. Several Republican legislators were in attendance, quietly sitting in the back of the room observing the proceedings.
Before the session began, there were quite a few television interviews taking place, as well as many reporters interviewing legislators from both sides of the aisle, along with other elected officials and people of interest. It was interesting to see them scurrying around to get as many interviews as they could before the session began.
The one common theme in the opening remarks from each of the members of the Assembly and Senate Summit Panel was jobs. They then went on to discuss their personal views of Gov. Chris Christie's plan for the revitalization of Atlantic City. Some took advantage of it to promote the horse-racing industry, and two of the members went on with their idea of having a full-fledged casino in the Meadowlands that would be owned and operated by the owners of the casinos in Atlantic City.
Senators Raymond Lesniak and Paul Sarlo were often rude as they carried on private conversations while people from the panel were addressing them. Sarlo was emphatic in stating that the money for the building of the Atlantic City Convention Center came from the state of New Jersey. Senator Jim Whelan later corrected him, as did Mark Juliano, a member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. They correctly stated that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority paved the way to receive the funds necessary for the development. They also stated that the ACCVA, not the state, is paying off the bonds of the Convention Center.
Lesniak brought up the issue of sports betting and let it be known that his 40-member law firm is providing legal expertise to fight for it in the courts, pro bono.
During the Summit session, there was no plan or specific program that was introduced or discussed by the Democrats. They were endeavoring to gather information as to what legislation needed to be accomplished in order to aid and assist Atlantic City. While I was riding up the escalator alongside Senate President Stephen Sweeney, he told me he would like to see a plan for Atlantic City developed by the casinos. He said they are in the best position to do so. Juliano, the president of the Casino Association, stated the group supports the plan put forth by Christie.
Sarlo made an issue of competition from a casino across the river from New Jersey in Chester, Pa., that is owned and operated by Harrah's Entertainment. He was told that Harrah's has four casinos in Atlantic City and would do everything it can to make Atlantic City bigger and better. I wonder what he would have said had he known that Harrah's will be a partner with the Foxwoods group that is going to develop a casino along the riverfront in Philadelphia.
At the Summit, there was testimony from a representative of the Hard Rock Casino that it is interested in the legislation being put forth by Whelan for 200-room casinos. He stated his group would be spending $400 million for the development of this project at the Albany Avenue and Boardwalk site, if it is approved. It was obvious from the remarks of the varied summit members that many of them favor Whelan's bill. When asked if the 200-room casinos would have to be new development, Whelan stated that he is writing a new bill that will limit the development to two new 200-room casino hotels. This is down from the previous four in the original bill that also allowed for present hotels to add a casino.
Notes of interest
Last week, The Press of Atlantic City announced it would run a "Boardwalk Empire" series, and that it will also have a video presentation on the life of Nucky Johnson. I commend them for this, as it will make more people aware not only of the book, which is a good read, but the television series that HBO will run beginning Sept. 19. I would like to call to your attention to a Washington Post headline that stated, "TV critics shower love on HBO, Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, 'Boardwalk Empire.'" It further stated, "HBO is trotting out its most lavish series in ages, 'Boardwalk Empire.'" Critics love that it is executive-produced by Scorsese, a revered filmmaker who directed the pilot and will direct some future episodes. They also like that the show is written by Terence Winter, who was the right-hand man on "The Sopranos." "Boardwalk Empire" is set in Atlantic City in the 1920s, just as Prohibition seized the country. It features mobsters such as Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. Good, good and even better say critics who were particularly fond of the idea that Buscemi will play the role of Nucky Thompson - in real life Nucky Johnson. In my view, he was a benevolent dictator of Atlantic City for 30 years.
Jim Perskie, an editorial writer for The Press of Atlantic City, writes a blog that allows him to have thoughts and observations of his own. In Monday's blog, Perskie wrote the following headline, "OK, I'm back, with this: Let's all stop bad-mouthing Atlantic City."
Here is an excerpt from his blog with which I wholeheartedly concur: "The first step to fixing Atlantic City is for all of us to stop bad-mouthing the place. ... I am not blind to the resort's problems. But accuracy is a long way from truth. Here's what I saw in several mornings on the 'walk: Lots of people - and families - having a ball. That's right, people having fun in Atlantic City. Shopping, eating, going to the beach, strolling the 'walk. Imagine. And I'm willing to bet that all these people who talk about how filthy the Boardwalk is have not been up there in a while. Sure there are spots that sometimes make you look away - just like ... say ... in midtown Manhattan. But every morning I saw crews out there emptying trash cans, picking up litter, cleaning bathrooms. And this isn't just a recent thing. I've noticed for several years now that the Boardwalk has become progressively cleaner. ... With all the doom and gloom you hear about in A.C., it is easy to forget that an awful lot of people still come here and have a helluva time, particularly on a nice summer day. ... So welcome Gov. Christie. Any help improving the resort is welcome. But the truth about Atlantic City is that people have fun here. Still. And the first step to improving the city just might be to take note of that instead of constantly bad-mouthing the place."
Thanks, Jim, for a well-written blog.
(Pinky's Corner airs 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on WOND-AM 1400. His TV show, "WMGM Presents Pinky," airs 7:30 p.m. Saturdays NBC TV40. Pinky's e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.)