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A ticket does not guarantee you access to Trump's Wildwood rally

Got a ticket to the Trump rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center next Tuesday?

So do more than 100,000 other people — and tickets are still being requested for a venue that holds about 7,400.

“This is going to be a little bit extreme because of how small the venue is,” Darwin Cooper, 30, of Vineland, said of making the cut and getting inside.

A big fan of President Donald Trump, this will be Cooper’s eighth Trump rally. Most venues are at least twice as big as Wildwood’s, he said.

“The campaign recommends getting to the venue as early as possible because admission is first come, first serve, but there will be two screens outside for those who don’t make it inside to watch the rally,” according to a Trump campaign spokesperson.

The campaign is still telling those interested in attending Jan. 28 to request tickets at donaldjtrump.com.

“Some folks stay out overnight (waiting in line), and a majority of folks like myself get there 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m.,” Cooper said when asked for advice on how to get in the doors.

“Just be prepared to wait outside six to 10 hours,” the real estate investor and house flipper said. “It’s hard on the body. You don’t move until the doors open up. Just imagine — I’m a young guy, and it’s very hard. You’re extremely tired at the end.”

The rally doesn’t start until 7 p.m., but venue doors open promptly at 3 p.m., Cooper said. Doors opened an hour or two early at only one of the rallies he’s attended, and only because it was raining.

DCCC targets Van Drew race in New Jersey

New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District was recently added to the list of Democratic Congressional Caucus Committee battlefield races, where the national group plans to spend extra money and effort.

U.S. Jeff Van Drew, whose change from Democrat to Republican after voting against impeachment sparked the rally, has said more tickets have been requested for Trump’s Wildwood rally than for any other rally Trump has held.

Some folks will have to park pretty far away, said Cape May County Emergency Management Director Marty Pagliughi.

“They will be parking wherever they can on streets and in private lots that are opened up,” Pagliughi said. “We’re advising people to be prepared to walk.”

He said the city is expecting a crowd as big as the one for Tim McGraw in 2016, estimated at about 35,000.

Pagliughi does not yet know how Trump is getting to town or by what route, he said Tuesday. He’ll find that out just before the event in a meeting with Secret Service.

For now, his office is rounding up resources from other counties and from the State Police and state Office of Homeland Security.

“We’ll be involved in working on the communications plan — all first responders are given assigned channels,” Pagliughi said. “We’ve been requesting traffic barriers from other counties and working closely with law enforcement.”

He said emergency management and Wildwood police have been in touch with other cities that have had rallies.

“We have a pretty good idea what to expect,”Pagliughi said.

Republican Van Drew gets higher-profile committee assignments

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, has higher-profile committee assignments now that he is a Republican, which will allow him to influence decisions on the Coast Guard and other things important to the district, his office announced Thursday.

Cooper recommends buying a cheap disposable chair to sit in while waiting in line because you have to leave it outside.

Once through security, participants either decide to stand for the duration to get closer to Trump, or to sit in seats farther away.

“A lot of people rush right in and go straight down to the floor,” Cooper said.

That means he sits in line from about 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., then stands for four hours before the rally starts and continues standing for another two hours while Trump and others speak.

“That’s a long, long day,” Cooper said.

He does it for the chance to see the president, learn new information and support Trump and the country, he said.

But also for the morale boost.

Amy Kennedy invites other Democrats to unity event day of Trump rally

Congressional candidate Amy Kennedy, of Brigantine, has invited her Democratic primary opponents to a “Serving South Jersey Not Trump” event in or around Wildwood on the day that President Donald J. Trump is to hold a rally with U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

“You can be low and go to a Trump rally and be with fellow Trump supporters having a good time,” said Cooper, who first realized he was a Republican at age 16.

“I like the belief that if you work hard, the American dream is possible,” Cooper said. “It’s common sense.”

There are always protests inside the rally, Cooper said.

“The Trump campaign wants people to shout them out — chanting ‘Trump! Trump! Trump! — until security removes them from the venue,” he said. “I’m expecting a decent amount of protesters,” because of Wildwood’s proximity to big urban centers and much of blue New Jersey.

“In other places — red places — I’d estimate (protesters make up) 5% to 10% (of people in the venue). You will see this will be a higher percentage.”

Only once did a rally he attended get canceled because of protesters, Cooper said. That was in Chicago, leading up to the 2016 election.

“Chicago was a madhouse,” he said. “A speaker from the campaign said, ‘Due to security reasons, Trump won’t be coming.’ The protesters had shut down the rally.”

But now that Trump is president, he has a lot more security, Cooper said.

Van Drew said South Jersey is proud to host Trump.

“It shows he cares about big towns, big cities and the little places,” Van Drew said.

Who is running in the 2nd Congressional District race?

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Items from Sinatra's Chairman Suite at old Golden Nugget to be auctioned off

If you have $2,000-$4,000 lying around and an interest in owning Frank Sinatra’s Italian marble toilet with a golden clamshell lid, make your way to Swedesboro this Sunday.

S&S Auction will be auctioning it off, alongside roughly 200 other items from the crooner’s “Chairman’s Suite” at the original Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, which was at one time called the Atlantic City Hilton and most recently went by the Atlantic Club.

Phil Amaradio, owner of S&S, acquired the collection from the building’s owners in the fall. He declined to provide the purchase price.

“It was kind of unique because all those years, the suites weren’t touched,” said Amaradio, 51, of Woolwich Township, Gloucester County. “If you go back and look at photographs of the Chairman’s Suite, the Sinatra Suite, you’ll see these items actually pictured and photographed in some of the older photography they had.”

Steve Wynn wanted Sinatra to sing exclusively at the Golden Nugget when he came to the resort, Amaradio said. As part of a deal with the singer, he had an expansive, well-appointed apartment built on the 23rd floor of the adjoining hotel around 1983.

When Sinatra came to sing at the casino, he had a spacious home away from home: The Chairman’s Suite had a bar, kitchen, bedroom, multiple bathrooms, dining area and more, said Sonnie Basen, a co-owner of the collection who is supervising the sale.

“It really just kind of kept going and going,” said Basen, 59, of Cherry Hill. “If you compared it to the original rooms underneath, it’s probably like four or five rooms. It’s probably about 2,500 square feet, 3,000 square feet.”

Parties interested in taking home a piece of that apartment can bid in person Sunday afternoon at the company’s Swedesboro showroom or at ssauction.com.

Items on offer include artwork of Sinatra and of Atlantic City, a white Yamaha baby grand white-lacquered piano, an art deco sunrise style headboard, a French Empire style bronze chandelier, a chiffonier cabinet, a Grecian garden statue, a pair of antique Tibetan praying Buddha statues, a “large Asian erotic 8 panel screen,” multiple toilets, a bidet, rugs, ottomans, chairs, tables, lamps, multiple sets of miniature swords, a sectional sofa, swivel club chairs, stained glass panels, two obelisks and a towel rack.

The pair offered an example to illustrate the value a name can add to an object. Last year, a California auction house auctioned off Nancy and Frank Sinatra’s personal effects. His ebonized Steinway piano, a model that would normally go for $15,000 to $20,000, sold for $105,000, Basen said.

“Frank Sinatra’s still a major icon,” Basen said. “There’s still a lot of people that are really attached to him and anything that he owned.”

One of the pieces that caught their eyes, and one the pair think will fetch the highest bid, is an ornate black-and-gold longcase clock by Ferdinand Berthoud. There is an “almost identical” clock in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Basen said.

“It’s by a very, very well-known 18th century clock making company,” Basen said. “The unique thing about that company is they evolved into one of the premier, high-end watch-making companies.”

The suite stood as a time capsule collecting dust high above the streets of Atlantic City until the shuttered hotel was sold in October to New York-based construction and investment firm Colosseo Atlantic City Inc. Amaradio said that while high-roller suites are often upgraded and refurbished every 24 to 36 months, Sinatra’s suite was stuck in time.

“One of the things that we thought was really interesting is how ... things just were untouched,” Amaradio said. “They stayed in the suites for such a long period. They weren’t redecorated. They weren’t dismantled. And that’s kind of unusual.”

GALLERY: Own a piece of Frank Sinatra's Golden Nugget 'Chairman's Suite'

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CRDA introduces plan to address 'overwhelming burden' of Atlantic City rooming houses

ATLANTIC CITY — The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority took the first step Tuesday toward implementing a plan that will reduce the number of substandard rooming houses throughout the city.

The authority’s Board of Directors made a preliminary determination of eligibility for a conversion project that aims to either repurpose or demolish rooming houses that are not in compliance with existing laws and codes.

A public hearing on the project will be scheduled before the board’s next meeting in February.

A cost estimate for the project has yet to be determined.

“Providing financial assistance in the form of a loan for the conversion of the former rooming house to other lawful uses can encourage developers to purchase and improve these properties, which will help reduce the overwhelming burden of the (large number of) rooms already in Atlantic City,” CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty said.

Both the number of people occupying rooming houses in Atlantic City and their proximity to one another in certain neighborhoods violate city regulations, which mirror those found in the state’s Rooming and Boarding House Act.

The total number of people living in rooming homes cannot exceed half of 1% of the city’s population, estimated in 2018 to be 38,429. The regulations also prohibit rooming houses within 1,000 feet of each other.

An exact number of rooming houses in Atlantic City varies by agency. City records show there are 43 rooming houses, while state records from the Bureau of Rooming and Boarding House Standards list 56 licensed operators. CRDA’s own inventory identifies 53 rooming houses in Atlantic City.

According to CRDA, only 30 of the city’s rooming houses have proper land-use approvals.

Efforts have already been made to address rooming houses in Atlantic City. Doherty said 13 properties have been converted, or the owners are amenable to conversion, while another 10 have been closed or slated for demolition.

Mayor Marty Small Sr. said a 90-day code enforcement review team started its work Monday, with a focus on aggressively ensuring compliance by property owners, including those of rooming houses.

“My administration is going to continue being a willing partner to keep Atlantic City clean and fix up this mess that we have,” Small said. “The goal is to have Atlantic City in the best position possible.”

CRDA Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the collaboration between CRDA and city officials represents a “real effort to bring this whole issue under control.”

“I think this is an important initiative that will get to the heart of the quality of life here,” Mulcahy said.

Some of the structures that are convertible may be turned into workforce housing where the opportunity presents itself, CRDA Vice Chairman Richard Tolson said.

CRDA is looking to work with social service groups, such as Volunteers of America and Jewish Family Service, to assist with relocating residents who are displaced as a result of the project.

In other board business, Jewish Family Service was designated an additional provider for CRDA’s traveler’s assistance program, along with Volunteers of America. In five years, the program has successfully relocated 200 homeless people per year, according to the CRDA. The designation for JFS allocates funding for relocation services not to exceed $100,000.

The CRDA Board of Directors also approved amending its financial assistance to the Atlantic City Initiatives Project Office. The office, which was formed from a recommendation contained in the state’s 2018 Atlantic City transition report, was initially awarded $1.35 million for three years to pay for state Department of Community Affairs staff. The funding failed to cover salary and fringe benefits for the staff, so an additional $150,000 annually was required, DCA Deputy Commissioner Rob Long said.

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center will get IT infrastructure upgrades, an action that is “sorely needed,” Small said. The $2.3 million project will replace the 10-year-old hardware at both facilities.

Contracts for asbestos abatement at Boardwalk Hall and concrete services for the two CRDA-owned buildings, both on an as-needed basis, also were approved Tuesday.

PHOTOS from the Martin Luther King read-in at the Atlantic City library

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Casino employment 'rightsized' in 2019, below 2018 levels

ATLANTIC CITY — The total number of people working in the city’s nine casino hotels declined slightly at the end of 2019 compared to the year before.

The decrease in the number of casino employees is neither a cause for concern nor an indicator the industry is moving in the wrong direction, experts said.

Rather, the 2019 numbers more accurately reflect a casino market that added two properties in June 2018 — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort — starting to self-correct.

Atlantic City’s gambling parlors employed 26,761 people in December, a 4.2% decrease from the same month in 2018, according to data from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of Eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts, said the employment numbers have leveled off across the industry in the 18 months since Hard Rock and Ocean opened, as operations steadied.

“As we begin a new year, we look forward to maintaining this strong employee base, ensuring long-term economic growth and stability across the city,” Callender said.

The number of full-time casino staff in 2019 fell 5.9%, and workers categorized as “other,” which includes temporary, seasonal and on-call employees, dipped 2.6%. At the same time, there were 174 more part-time employees, an increase of 5.6%.

“The 2019 figures bear out the fact that the industry has expanded by two, but it’s solid,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here Local 54, the casino workers union that represents nearly 10,000 members. “These are good employment figures for nine casinos.”

The casino industry reported more than $3.3 billion in total gaming revenue last year for the first time since 2012, when there were 12 properties in Atlantic City. The legalization of sports betting and the continued growth of online gambling contributed to the industry’s fourth consecutive year of revenue gains, accounting for more than 18% of all reported casino gaming revenue last year.

The industry’s net revenue, which reflects all income from gambling, hotel rooms, food and beverage, and entertainment before promotional allowances, was up nearly 11% through the first three quarters of 2019.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, said the industry is still rightsizing itself as the nine casinos try to identify the best way to operate in an expanded market.

The casinos were “more efficient” in 2019 and were therefore “able to generate higher levels of revenue at a lower expense rate,” Pandit said.

One month after Hard Rock and Ocean reopened shuttered Boardwalk casino properties, the entire casino hotel industry reported employing more than 30,000 people. The last time Atlantic City casino hotels had employed at least 30,000 was in 2014, right before four properties closed.

The dual openings of Hard Rock and Ocean resulted in the creation of 7,741 jobs in June 2018. By the end of that year, those two properties employed 6,927 people. As of December, Hard Rock (3,630) and Ocean (2,949) accounted for 6,579 casino hotel jobs, or just shy of 25% of the industry’s total labor force.

Ocean had the largest decrease in the number of employees in terms of number of jobs lost (228) from 2018 to 2019. Bally’s Atlantic City reported the largest decrease in jobs as a percentage of its total workforce, with a nearly 9% difference in 12 months.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa employs the most people of all the Atlantic City casinos, reporting 5,569 jobs last month. Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City provided 3,095 jobs at the end of 2019, third-most among the resort’s casino hotels. Tropicana rounded out the top five in 2019, reporting 2,947 employees.

GALLERY: The making of Hard Rock Atlantic City