Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian began a teleconference call with reporters Tuesday by addressing what is, to many, the most important issue facing Atlantic City: job losses.
The closures of three casinos in coming weeks would wipe out about 5,900 casino-hotel jobs. That’s nearly 20 percent of the job pool for the Atlantic City casino industry.
Guardian said he is “not aware of anything” that would prevent Showboat Atlantic City from closing Aug. 31 and Revel Casino Hotel from shutting Sep. 2. Trump Plaza is slated to shut in mid-September.
Guardian said Tuesday that Atlantic City is working with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on a job-placement program to mitigate the impact of job losses.
Job training will soon be available through Atlantic Cape Community College and its Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies, Guardian said. He said the program will train as many as 1,200 people annually. And he said he plans to open a job-placement center at City Hall within two months that will provide services to all city residents, not just casino workers.
But Guardian said that while he’s committed to saving jobs, he’s also committed to cutting them. City government has to shed 200 to 300 jobs as part of a larger effort to cut costs, he said.
Reducing spending by the city is “going to be very important as we see decreased assessed (property) values,” Guardian said.
Assessed values of properties in Atlantic City fell from $20 billion five years ago to $11.2 billion this year, he said. And, he said, that free fall will continue in coming years. “That’s the big issue for the city.”
He said the city is working with a state monitor to rein in spending, and that the city is in frequent discussions about sharing services with the county and state.
Meanwhile, Atlantic City is transitioning its economy to one less reliant on gambling revenue, which has plummeted in recent years, John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said during Tuesday’s teleconference.
The authority directs investment of legally required revenue contributions from Atlantic City casinos.
He said that by the end of Gov. Chris Christie’s so-called five-year recovery plan, which began in 2011, his agency will have worked with public and private groups to spend $1 billion on Atlantic City.
Future investment will place particular emphasis on job training and courting conventioneers and trade shows, he said.
Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, the city’s nonprofit marketing firm, said various metrics compiled by the state — hotel occupancy rate, casino gross operating profit, sales by third-party leaseholders inside casinos — reflect positive trends in the local economy. “Contrary (to) as it appears in the face of these closures ... Atlantic City is actually experiencing a very strong summer,” she said.
Mark Giannantonio, CEO of Resorts, Atlantic City’s first casino, vouched for that assessment Tuesday. He said that five years ago Resorts “was probably on the top of the list to close.” Now, he said, “we are having the best summer in about a decade.”
Much of the success, he said, is a result of more than $70 million in renovations of the property, including construction of the popular Margaritaville and Landshark bar-restaurant complex.
Resorts turned a $1.9 million gross operating profit in the quarter ended June 30, according to a report released Friday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. That was a vast improvement from the same quarter last year, when it lost $1.3 million, the report said.
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