A new nonprofit charged with aggressively going after convention business in Atlantic City has formed and is moving closer to operating independently.
The new entity, known as Meet AC, was created from within the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in a move intended to allow the city to compete more effectively with other cities for convention business.
Officials said the city had been hamstrung by state regulations restricting travel and disallowing commission incentives. The new entity does not face those impediments as a registered nonprofit.
The CRDA authorized Meet AC’s creation in March. The five-member board met for the first time last month to approve a meeting schedule and bylaws.
Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell said the group is recruiting its sales team and searching for a chief executive officer. The alliance does not deal directly with convention sales, but Cartmell said the alliance recognizes the importance of conventions driving mid-week business by making subsidy funding available to attract conventions.
“We feel very strongly that this is the next best way to free up the sales team from the onerous restrictions that New Jersey puts on this type of an operation,” Cartmell recently told The Press of Atlantic City’s editorial board.
Gov. Chris Christie pegged conventions as a key area Atlantic City needed to improve on before the Atlantic City Tourism District was created in 2011.
Tourism District legislation called for the the city’s conduit for convention sales, the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, to merged with the CRDA. That process took more than two years, due in part to complicated bond transactions related to the ownership of Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The new entity now effectively separates the function once again.
Funding for the ACCVA had been derived from Atlantic City luxury tax, levied at 3 percent on the sale of alcoholic beverages and 9 percent on other retail sales. Since the merger, those revenues now flow to the CRDA, but a portion will now be used to finance an $8 million operating budget for the new organization. Meet AC must seek approval for its budget from the CRDA.
The Meet AC board is chaired by Jeff Albrecht, general manager of the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. The other four board members are CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri, Resorts Vice President of Hotel Operations Mark Sachais, Tropicana Vice President of Hotel Operations Alan Rivin and local restaurant owner Frank Dougherty, whose family owns the Knife and Fork Inn, among others.
The board will meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center. After that, meetings will take place at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Convention Center. Meetings are open to the public.
Meet AC’s official website can be found at www.meetinac.com.
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