Since Gov. Chris Christie started pushing for increased state involvement in Atlantic City, all eyes seem to be on the resort.
That continued Monday, as a $38 million deal to sell Trump Marina Casino Hotel to Landry's Inc. was announced.
The sale was down from previous sale prices, including a $316 million offer in May 2008, before the recession decimated the local hospitality industry. But Landry's intends to spend $150 million upgrading the property right away. Overall, the sale was greeted as good news by local stakeholders on the heels of new regulations aimed at rescuing Atlantic City's tourism industries.
"I believe the governor's initiative for the casino zone is one of the reasons that things are starting to pop," said Robert McDevitt, president of Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, Atlantic City's largest casino union.
The Trump Marina deal went public Monday after a meeting between representatives from Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. and Landry's, owner of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas and its sister property in Laughlin, Nev.
Tilman J. Fertitta, chairman, president and CEO of Landry's, said his company is encouraged by the plan for the slumping Atlantic City market.
"I think that anytime you see a progressive governor get behind a certain area, it does mean something to us," Fertitta said.
Christie signed legislation two weeks ago that relaxes gaming regulations and establishes a Tourism District run by the Atlantic City-based, state-run Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
On Feb. 1, the governor also announced that Revel Entertainment Group would receive $261.4 million in state tax reimbursements over a 20-year period to benefit development. That enabled the casino to announce it was close to finishing a new financing deal, which was welcome news to the area after the company had struggled for more than a year to come up with money to finish Revel in the city's South Inlet neighborhood.
"The Tourism District, and - hopefully - the positive things that will flow out of that, the Marina District is going to be included. But I think the more important thing is the overall commitment the state is making to Atlantic City and the industry and the reassurance it gives to investors in Atlantic City," state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said Monday.
The governor's strategy has perked up investor interest in Atlantic City and could serve as a catalyst for even more casino sales, McDevitt said.
"We are hearing a lot of confidence from the investment community as a result of the state taking a more active role in the city. It's very important we show progress in the initiatives we've undertaken, but I think many people are very excited about building the partnership between the state, city and county that will benefit the future," said Assemblyman Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic.
Not all local leaders agreed on just how significant the new law actually was to the Marina deal.
"I certainly wouldn't argue that it has hurt (the sale), but I don't think we should put too much stock into that. I think people make an investment into Atlantic City based on the potential for return on their investment," Mayor Lorenzo Langford said. "The numbers drive the decisions, that's the bottom line."
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