Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said the state made it a priority to jump-start the Revel casino project over the similarly stalled Xanadu retail and entertainment complex in northern New Jersey.
"We had to solve Revel," she said Thursday in an interview after her keynote address at the Governor's Conference on Tourism at Trump Marina Hotel Casino. "That had to come first."
Both projects - a $2.6 billion casino in Atlantic City's South Inlet and a $2 billion shopping and entertainment hub under construction near the Meadowlands sports stadium and racetrack - stalled in the past couple of years. Both were promised assistance as part of Gov. Chris Christie's plan to boost state gaming and sports revenue, which was unveiled last July.
But Revel received help first because it was closer to completion, Guadagno said.
"It was much closer to being done," she said, speaking backstage at Trump Marina's Shell Theater.
Because of that decision, Revel received a major commitment from the state Feb. 4 in the form of a $200 million sales-tax break. Revel secured $1.15 billion in financing last month to complete the project, which is expected to create 2,000 construction jobs.
The administration chose to prioritize ways to restart the casino while they delegated the task of finding a buyer for the shopping and recreation complex to Jon Hanson, the governor's adviser on gaming, sports and entertainment policy.
The troubled retail complex was always intended to bring in rent for the state operators of the Meadowlands site.
Hanson has been in talks with Triple Five, the Canadian company that operates some of North America's biggest malls, and announced that a letter of intent had been signed Dec. 23. But a formal deal has not been worked out.
The success of Revel's revival has in turn meant construction activity and the possibility of new jobs along the Boardwalk, Guadagno said.
"When I talk to people about Revel, and about this city, they sound hopeful," she said. "Have we got more to do? Yes. But it's under way."
Guadagno said the state's efforts in Atlantic City are not a template to be used in other regions in need of development.
"We're not going to be creating a tourism district anywhere else, because that was unique," she said.
But Christie alluded Thursday to replicating the kind of sales-tax rebate offered to Revel for Xanadu as well, including the provision that gives the state a share of what he called "the up side."
In February, Christie said the Economic Development Authority would authorize the offsetting of more than $200 million in state sales tax, provided the money was used to aid construction and neighborhood improvements over the life of the 20-year rebate.
He also said he wanted the state to get a 2 percent share of profits that go to the casino's equity partners.
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