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On Atlantic City rescue, pointless fight did damage

Wednesday, May 25, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 05/25/16

Finally, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has faced political reality by agreeing to a state rescue of Atlantic City that has real teeth. This long delay was unnecessary, and it did damage. The delay had a political impact, and will probably derail efforts to expand casino gambling to North Jersey, at least for now. That expansion would require voter approval, and private polls show support has plummeted in recent months, according to several sources. But it is a pity because investors were lining up to sink up to $5 billion into two casinos, one in Jersey City and one in the Meadowlands.

That would provide jobs for an army of construction workers over the next several years, along with thousands of permanent jobs at gambling tables, restaurants, hotels, and retail spots. In addition, the planned expansion was designed so that a share of revenues would be diverted to Atlantic City, to help it diversify its economy beyond gaming. That potential revenue is lost for now as well.Instead, those investments and jobs will likely go to neighboring states, mainly Pennsylvania and New York.

The compromise itself is reasonable. It gives Atlantic City 150 days to fix its finances on its own. Prieto wanted two years, and until now had rejected Senate President Steve Sweeney's offer to give the city 130 days. The extra 20 days is nothing but a face-saver for Prieto. If Atlantic City can't make ends meet, the state will take over, with the power to break union contracts, sell assets, and force spending cuts. The hope is that won't happen; that Atlantic City will face the painful reality that it has lost two-thirds of its tax base, and make the cuts that are needed.

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