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What Atlantic City government shutdown means to casinos

Friday, March 25, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 3/23/2016

City hall in Atlantic City might look like a deserted village come April 8 if the financially strapped Jersey Shore town closes for three weeks as the mayor has threatened. All municipal employees — except police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors, and some others — would cease working. And no one would receive a pay check in that time. But as city and state officials continue to spar over exactly how to revive New Jersey's only gambling resort, one thing is certain: the city's eight casinos will remain open even as the local government essentially shuts down. Officials say the casinos are independent operations and are regulated by state law. Thus, the casinos will run as normal and investigators in the state Division of Gaming and the State Police will remain "on hand to monitor the gaming," said Matthew Levinson, chairman of the state Casino Control Commission. But a question remains: Will the people come to a dysfunctional city, possibly out of fear that it might not be safe? State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) said that's "absolutely" a worry. Local officials stress that the city's police and fire departments have vowed to work without pay, under the promise they'll be paid at a later day. Atlantic City has given billions of dollars to the state in casino tax revenue over the last four decades. But four casinos have closed in recent years amid ever-increasing competition from neighboring states, and the city's casino tax revenue has been cut in half. The state Legislature passed a rescue package that included changes sought by Gov. Chris Christie, but in January he vetoed it anyway. Instead, Christie and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) have promised to provide the aid only if it's accompanied by legislation that allows the state to take over large parts of the local government. And while the rescue and takeover bills have passed the state Senate, they remain dormant in the state Assembly because Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) wants the takeover to protect collective bargaining rights. Guardian traveled to Trenton this week to ask for a bridge loan, but Christie's administration refused. Hours later, the mayor announced the shutdown, which will last until May 2, when new tax money comes in. On Wednesday, the governor unleashed a series of messages on Twitter to reiterate his stance. He argued that Atlantic City's government costs two to three times more than any other city in the state and that the "bipartisan" bills passed by the Senate together will end the city's "cash crisis."

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