Sen. Ray Lesniak railed in a Press story today about Harrah’s plans to take a minority ownership in the troubled Foxwoods casino in Philadelphia: “Harrah’s only interest is its corporate bottom line in Nevada. They don’t care about Atlantic City. They don’t care about New Jersey.”
Hmm. The idea that Harrah’s is focused on its bottom line is ... well, getting awfully worked up about the obvious. Of course their primary interest is in their bottom line. They’re a business.
Lesniak’s comment was undoubtedly made in the context of putting slots in New Jersey racetracks — which Lesniak favors — and the opposition of Harrah’s (and other casinos) to in-state competition that drains gamblers from Atlantic City.
Some gaming analysts disagree with Lesniak’s take, saying this isn’t that bad a move for Atlantic City. Harrah’s can use the Philadelphia presence to attract customers to its Atlantic City locations. I haven’t a clue whether they’re right. But to say the company doesn’t care about Atlantic City is wrong — Harrah’s has a hefty investment here, and I’m sure it cares a lot.
Still, the issue surfaces at the same time the state is trying to work out a public/private partnership to run Atlantic City’s tourism district, a partnership that includes a nonprofit headed by casino executives. And it does underscore that this partnership must have a strong and healthy public component. The interests of Atlantic City casinos and the Atlantic City area in general overlap to a great degree. But not always. A publicly controlled entity needs to be steering this partnership.