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Tony Avelar  

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Charles J. Olson  

St. Joseph’s Jada Byers runs for his tenth touchdown of the game and career record number 102 during Saturday’s playoff game against Morris Catholic on November 23, 2019. Photo/Charles J. Olson

What's next for Caesars, Eldorado merger now that shareholders have approved deal?

The multibillion-dollar merger of Eldorado Resorts Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corp. was approved by shareholders of both companies last week, putting the completion of the deal to create the country’s largest gaming operator on the shoulders of federal and state regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission will be the first regulatory body to review the details of the $17.3 billion merger that would create the United States’ largest owner and operator of gaming assets with nearly 60 properties in 18 states. The FTC will conduct a preliminary review of the merger to determine whether it raises any antitrust concerns that warrant closer examination, according to the agency.

The FTC review is expected to take place in December.

In New Jersey, two regulatory bodies, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Control Commission, will be responsible for reviewing and approving the deal, respectively.

Both Eldorado Resorts, parent company of Tropicana Atlantic City, and Caesars Entertainment, operator of Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, are current casino license holders. New Jersey gaming regulators will be tasked with determining whether the merger would create an “undue economic concentration,” since the newly formed company, which will operate under the Caesars name, would control four of Atlantic City’s nine casino properties.

Bob Ambrose, an industry consultant and adjunct professor of casino management, said gaming regulators have to carefully consider the impact one company controlling that much of the market may have on Atlantic City.

“I hope there’s no rush here,” Ambrose said. “They need to look at this seriously and consider the entire market.”

Ambrose said it was his belief that the lack of independent ownership in Atlantic City “has been a major problem since casinos came to town.” He said ownership concentration could stifle growth and investment.

“When you have companies that own three or four properties in a market the size of Atlantic City, it’s market dominance,” he said. “Competition should dictate the market.”

Dan Heneghan, a retired public information officer for the Casino Control Commission and former casino beat reporter for The Press of Atlantic City, said state gaming regulators are “concerned about economic concentration in the casino industry for many of the same reasons that the (federal) Justice Department is concerned about monopolies in industry in general.”

Eldorado, Caesars deal moving ahead

State gaming regulators could make a determination about the proposed merger between Eldorado Resorts Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corp. within the next few months as the two gaming companies prepare to finalize their multi-billion deal.

“If you have a monopoly, or something close to a monopoly, there’s always the concern that the big player can effectively set prices” to the determent of the customer, Heneghan said.

While there is no set timetable for New Jersey regulators to make a determination on the merger, the gaming operators have said they expect the deal to be finalized by the first half of 2020.

The two gaming companies submitted a joint petition to state regulators in September that said they intend to present an economic analysis that demonstrates the merger would not create an undue economic concentration.

The state Office of the Attorney General, of which the DGE operates under, said New Jersey gaming regulators would also retain an expert.

“As required by law, the Division is responsible for ensuring the honesty, integrity and financial stability of casino licensees,” the OAG said in an email. “Part of this process is analyzing the economic impact of casino acquisitions such as the Eldorado / Caesars merger. As part of this process the Division has retained an economic expert to assist with the review of this merger.”

The proposed deal and its impact on the market in Atlantic City are further complicated by the fact that Caesars Entertainment has three outstanding deed restrictions on former casino properties. The former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, the Claridge Hotel and the Showboat Hotel Atlantic City all have restrictions that prevent them from operating as gaming parlors.

Claridge and Showboat are currently operating as non-casino hotels. The Atlantic Club, which has been closed since 2014, was recently sold, and the new owner has said it intends to operate the property as a noncasino hotel.

Showboat owner Bart Blatstein has expressed his desire to resume gaming operations on his property and received a statement of compliance — a preliminary step that affirms his financial suitability — from state gaming regulators earlier this year. Blatstein testified that he intends to circumvent the deed restriction by constructing a facility on an adjoining lot, but has yet to move forward with those plans.

PHOTOS from the Battle of the Bras at Harrah's in Atlantic City

Keeping the roads snow free while staying environmentally green

The 2019-20 winter outlook is stormy, with early shots of arctic air. The potential for tricky traveling on the roads and icy sidewalks means salt spreaders will stay busy, but that comes with an environmental cost.

“Rock salt isn’t great for your concrete. It isn’t great for your cars,” said David Herman, president and owner of Banner Chemical Corp. Located in Orange, Essex County, Herman sells chemicals to melt snow and ice throughout the state.

Rock salt hinders the environment. By lowering the freezing point of snow and ice, it helps loosen bonded ice from the surface so it can be plowed.

“There’s historically been an over-application of rock salt,” said Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst notes that any salt reduces the hardiness of leaves and plants, which can die in the icy, winter wind. Salt also increases water stress in the soil, among other factors.

“Sodium chloride is one of the major leachers of lead in pipes,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

South Jersey governments are attempting to keep the streets clean while staying green. A combination of knowledge and better products means if anti-icing measures are executed correctly, plowing is done faster, people get on their way quicker and the environment is less impacted.

“We used to use almost 200 tons of salt (in a winter). ... We now usually go through 100-150 tons a year,” said Bill Macomber, director of public works for Avalon.

Tirado said environmentally sensitive snow and ice management practices have “absolutely” been a trend.

“Environmental contamination and damage to properties are the main trends,” Tirado said.

It’s more efficient practices that help to produce greener results.

“We have a lot of flowers and plants in the centers (of the roads). Using better knowledge, we’re not burning the grasses and flower beds the same. We’re not putting it (salt) down as heavy as we used to, the drivers are better trained, they don’t think the more the better,” Macomber said.

It also helps keep public works crews running at full speed when the snow comes down the heaviest.

“Salt, being in a corrosive environment ... there’s a challenge to keep that equipment in top state,” said Greg Brookins, head of the Atlantic County Department of Public Works.

Not all salt is created equal, and finding something that balances maximum efficiency, environmental protection and price is key.

There are many different types of salt to keep the roads and sidewalks clear. Rock salt, sodium chloride, is the harshest for the environment. However, it’s the most common, and the cheapest. Jay Steinmetz, acting deputy director of Atlantic County Public Works, said the county pays $57 to $59 per ton. Macomber paid $64.75 per ton.

Calcium and magnesium chlorides have been categorized as safer alternatives.

jmartucci-pressofac / JOE MARTUCCI Press Meteorologist  

From keeping your pets inside, to turning the heat up in your house, there are many parts of your home and family to be aware of during winter weather. 

“The real advantage is that they melt (snow and ice) quicker at very cold temperatures. It is safer than using rock salt because you’re getting results with less,” Tirado said.

That means it’s environmentally safer.

“It’s probably the best when it comes to being high quality and it being a safer producer,” Herman said.

Macomber has been buying a blend of the two chlorides for use on the sidewalks, driveways and parking lots of Avalon. He said it’s effective down to a temperature of -15 degrees. Regular rock salt is only effective down to 15 degrees.

It is more expensive, costing $9.75 for a 50-pound bag, or $390 per ton.

To balance the weights of environmentalism, cost and efficiency, rock salt can be sprayed with an environmentally safer chloride.

“It reduces the salt bounce,” said Macomber. When unsprayed or treated salt is spread onto the road, solid salt hits the hard pavement or sidewalk and scatters to the grass, plants and waterways, not only harming the environment but wasting product.

“Pre-spraying the salt (with liquid) reduces salt usage by 30%,” Tirado said.

Macomber said he’s been using treated bulk salt on the streets more than regular rock salt. Called ”Sweet Mix,” a liquid blending agent is mixed with rock salt to reduce bounce and scatter.

“It’s safer to the environment,” he said.

Atlantic County Public Works turns to a similar method when temperatures drop below 15, combining the frigid weather effectiveness of a magnesium or calcium chloride with the reduction in application needed as a result of less bounce.

Avalon used beet juice, which can be mixed with salt for another environmentally safe alternative, in 2017. However, the results were poor.

“It jammed up all of our machinery,” Macomber said.

Atlantic County Public Works did not find success with it, either, Steinmetz said.

Nevertheless, environmentalists urge they keep trying.

“We need to get where we need to go during the wintertime. We also need to start doing things in a more responsible manner in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment,” Tittel said.

Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci's 7-Day Forecast

Pleasantville marches to end gun violence after fatal shooting of 10-year-old

PLEASANTVILLE — Standing at a podium, facing the home-side bleachers at the high school football field, Chris Wright described the “violent nightmare” that unfolded last week when a 10-year-old boy was fatally shot and two others were injured during a state playoff game.

“In that very moment, not knowing if the air we breathed would be promised the next minute, while feeling lost and helpless, life frozen right before our very eyes,” Wright said, “it felt as though we could not run fast enough to safety.”

The 14-year-old freshman defensive player for Pleasantville High School was one of more than 100 members of the community who marched Saturday afternoon from Woodland Avenue Park to the field. It was a march for peace, organizers and participants said, and an effort to put a stop to gun violence and to start healing the trauma the shooting caused those on the field, in the bleachers and to first responders.

“We want to make sure that each and every person feels safe in our community,” said Khaliyah Haraksin, the high school’s freshman class president. “We want to assure everyone that this was not Pleasantville that struck into action. This was adults taking their feud to a football game, trying to end it there.”

Authorities called the Nov. 15 shooting a targeted attack in which Alvin Wyatt shot Ibn Abdullah on the home side bleachers during the third quarter of the Pleasantville-Camden Central Jersey Group II semifinal. Abdullah was left with serious injuries, a 15-year-old suffered a graze wound and 10-year-old Micah Tennant was shot in the neck and died from his injuries Wednesday.

Six people from Atlantic City and Pleasantville, including Abdullah and Wyatt, have been charged in the shooting.

Speakers included local religious and community leaders, including district Superintendent Dennis Anderson, who said it was “with a heavy heart and a huge sense of disbelief” that he stood there and apologized to the young people around him.

“Someway, somehow, somewhere along the lines, my generation has failed you,” Anderson said. “I ask that those of you from the younger generation and generations — do what my generation was not able to do. Please, by all means, stop the violence, encourage people to do what’s right and to do the right thing, and not to engage in activities that inflict harm to others.”

The march was organized by city resident Lonniyell Sykes, who goes by the last name “The Community.”

“I’m excited about making forward steps towards healing,” Sykes said, adding that marching puts a visual to a problem. “It brings about a change for some that are ready for change.”

Before the march began, Sykes asked everyone to pledge that their communities mattered, and that they would not allow them to “sink and suffer.”

As the march started down New Road, the crowd chanted “Each one, reach one” and “Hands up, guns down.” They carried signs that read “Parents talk to your children” and “Divided we fall together we stand.”

Officers from the city Police Department drove in front of and rode bicycles around the march, holding up traffic so the crowds could get through. Once the marchers turned up West Reading Avenue and with the high school in sight, the crowd fell silent.

“We walk in silence to the field for that young soldier. We walk in silence for that 10-year-old baby,” Sykes’ voice boomed through her megaphone. “For the young man who lost his life to gun violence. Micah, you matter. We will keep you alive.”

PHOTOS from the peace march in Pleasantville