Final approvals were given Wednesday allowing the CRDA to absorb the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, according to sources with knowledge of the agreement.
The transaction was mandated by the same 2011 legislation that created the Atlantic City Tourism District and follows more than two years of negotiations.
Both the Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall will now be controlled by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority as a result. ACCVA President Jeffrey Vasser and CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri signed off on final certifications Wednesday allowing the merger to take place, sources said.
The ACCVA will now become a division of the CRDA, and the authority will assume the ACCVA’s assets and liabilities.
State lawmakers said the development is positive for the resort and will allow for streamlining of marketing responsibilities.
“Having a unified team with all of the oars pulling in the same direction is so important for the overall competitiveness of the resort and its economic revitalization,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic. “The merger of the ACCVA into the CRDA eliminates a layer of bureaucracy and makes the organization more efficient.”
Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, echoed those sentiments but also expressed concern about the future of the ACCVA employees who are expected to merge into the CRDA.
Legislation introduced last year would have protected the seniority of ACCVA employees, but Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto of that legislation.
“Essentially, (Christie) said the purpose of everything coming under CRDA was to allow CRDA to make those decisions. If we tied their hands, it wouldn’t allow the CRDA to do their job,” Amodeo said, adding that he’s unclear how the merger might affect seniority.
Both Vasser and Palmieri have previously said they don’t expect jobs to be lost.
“Being a blue-collar worker my whole life ... I think it’s important that (the employees) are respected and given the opportunity to laterally find positions they’re qualified for in the CRDA,” Amodeo said. “If these people were to lose that, I just don’t think that’s fair.”
Mike Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Tourism District legislation initially called for dissolving the agency entirely. Christie took aim at the authority’s spending and said it was clear that another entity should be in charge of marketing the city. He later softened his stance to suggest that the authority become a division of the CRDA.
In a similar move two years ago, the Atlantic City Special Improvement District dissolved and transferred its assets and liabilities to the CRDA, becoming a division of the authority. The CRDA assumed the staff, equipment and programs of the district while Don Guardian, the district’s executive director, retained his title and was named head of the division.
However, merging the Special Improvement District with the CRDA — a move that took place two months after the Tourism District legislation was passed — was a far less complex process than the challenge officials faced in the case of the ACCVA. It has also taken much longer than anyone predicted.
The process was complicated by the complex ownership situation involving Boardwalk Hall and the Convention Center. The state, three authorities, private investors and multiple bond trustees and issuers have been involved. Complications date to 2008, when the ACCVA began to separate from the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority.
Christie has said he began staff meetings to coordinate the transfer process even before Tourism District legislation was signed. Vasser predicted that the process would be grueling but suggested it might take several months rather than years. Officials faced a February 2014 deadline to complete the process, coming two years after the adoption of the Tourism District Master Plan.
The ACCVA was formed in 1993 through the merger of the Atlantic City Convention Center Authority and the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau. It operated under the umbrella of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority until the two agencies began to separate in 2008. The ACCVA was regarded as the city’s primary marketing arm until the Atlantic City Alliance was created by Tourism District legislation.
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