ATLANTIC CITY — Casino Control Commission Vice Chair Sharon Anne Harrington officially retired Wednesday, leaving a vacancy on the three-member board as a multibillion-dollar gaming merger looms and the industry prepares to rebound from a nearly four-month closing due to COVID-19.
Harrington, 65, of Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, has been a commissioner for the gaming regulatory body since July 2009. Her current term expired in August 2018, but she has continued to work since Gov. Phil Murphy has not nominated a replacement.
Murphy has also failed to nominate a replacement for Commissioner Alisa Cooper, whose term expired last summer. Cooper continues to serve on the board. The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday about when nominations would be made.
On the eve of her retirement from public service, spanning several decades and multiple agencies and organizations, Harrington said she felt now was the right time to call it quits.
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“I’ve had a fantastic career,” she said Tuesday, highlighting her time at the commission as well as the state Motor Vehicle Commission, Ethics Commission, Urban Enterprise Zone Authority and Cemetery Board. She also served on staff for two U.S. senators, Robert Torricelli and Frank Lautenberg.
Harrington’s passion is arts and culture, and she plans to continue working toward advancing both in retirement. She is currently the chair of Art Pride New Jersey and previously served as chair of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
“Art touches so many aspects of people’s lives, from education to quality-of-life issues,” she said. “I’ve loved my vocational public service.”
Casino Control Commission Chair James Plousis said Harrington has been a “dedicated public servant” and wished her well in retirement.
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“Everywhere she went she has brought enthusiasm to that position and she’s added value to that position,” Plousis said.
Harrington’s departure comes at a critical time for the commission and the casino industry in Atlantic City.
The commission will soon make a determination on the proposed $17.3 billion merger of Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. The deal faced regulatory hurdles in New Jersey as it relates to market concentration since the newly formed company would operate three of Atlantic City’s nine casinos.
Eldorado currently operates Tropicana Atlantic City, while Caesars Entertainment runs Bally’s, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. Caesars recently sold Bally’s Atlantic City to Rhode-Island based Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which should alleviate most concerns for gaming regulators.
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The new company will keep the Caesars name.
Casinos are set to resume business Thursday at a reduced capacity after being closed nearly four months because of the novel coronavirus.