Don Guardian is fighting a two-front war: to avoid North Jersey casinos and Chris Christie's economic controls.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian warned lawmakers that North Jersey casinos would bring an increase in “prostitution and drugs and other minor crimes” to the region. Mayor Guardian’s comments were part of an ongoing debate in anticipation of a casino referendum which is planned for the November 2016 election cycle.
Political leaders in the state of New Jersey are grappling with the idea of licensing brick-and-mortar casinos in places like Jersey City and the Meadowlands, which would be the first time since gaming was legalized in New Jersey in 1976 that casino gambling would exist outside Atlantic City.
Proponents of the longstanding casino monopoly in Atlantic City claim that North Jersey casinos would spell the end for Atlantic City’s casino industry — and perhaps the end for the Boardwalk city as a whole.
Guardian Sought a Bridge Loan
The comments came on Monday, when Don Guardian tried to convince New Jersey lawmakers to make Atlantic City a bridge loan. He was unable to convince legislators to do so. In response, Guardian said he would shut down many aspects of city government for the better part of the month.
The Atlantic City government shutdown affects 900 city workers, and goes into effect on April 8. The shutdown is going to last until May 2, when the city receives its next quarertly revenue payment. Guardian said the shutdown would affect “non-essential services”.
Blamed Chris Christie
Mayor Guardian placed the blame for the Atlantic City government shutdown on Gov. Chris Christie, whom he says refused to a fiscal bailout package without Atlantic City signing over to New Jersey’s state government control of its financial affairs. Don Guardian called his moves “ethical decisions”, based in the common interest.
Guardian said North Jersey casinos would exacerbate traffic woes in the region, causing a massive effect both on commuter’s everyday lives and the local environment. Even more extremely, he suggested the opening of casinos in North Jersey would increase crime in the region. Presumably, North Jersey is a region particularly prone to crime, because Guardian had never complained about casinos bringing crime to his resort city.
Geoff Freeman Speaks
Geoff Freeman, the outspoken chairman of the American Gaming Association, rebuked Don Guardian for his words. In an American political season when rhetoric already is out of control, the AGA chairman said arguments about the North Jersey casinos “should be based in fact, not driven by asinine comments like those made by Mayor Don Guardian.”
Mr. Freeman said casino gambling was a solid business and community leader in every jurisdiction which has legal casino gambling in the United States. He added that it was “disappointing and disingenuous” of Mayor Don Guardian to “recycle tired myths about an industry that serves as the lifeblood of his city.”
Atlantic City’s Failing Economy
The advice is not likely to be taken. Atlantic City is reeling from the loss of 8,000 casinos jobs in 2014, which was part of catastrophic loss of 9,000 jobs overall. When one considers that Atlantic City has only 40,000 residents and 24.6% of those people are under the age of 18, one realizes that the job losses affected a full one-third of the workforce (accounting for retirees). Almost no family in the city was not affected.
Worse, the tax base of Atlantic City was gutted by the casino closings of 2014. Not only did the city lose the tax revenues from four of its largest businesses — the casinos — but it lost revenues from a third of its workforce. Under the circumstances, Atlantic City was listed in 2014 as the worst city in American in which to live — even worse than the financially troubled Detroit.
Attempts to Bridge the Divide
Some New Jersey politicians have tried to sought ways to lessen the economic effects of North Jersey casinos. Senate President Stephen Sweeney has a plan to pump $1 billion over a 10-year period into the AC economy from North Jersey casino tax revenues. State lawmakers assured that only Atlantic City casino companies could bid on the North Jersey licenses, though that hardly helps the people of Atlantic City.
Under the circumstances, those who believe casino gambling should stay in Atlantic City (only) are likely to pull out all stops, because they are trying to save the jobs of the remaining workers in the city. Voters should expect an ugly casino referendum campaign.
Atlantic City’s Republican mayor says adding two casinos in northern New Jersey would bring crimes including prostitution and drugs and would cause as many problems as benefits.
The Record newspaper reports Mayor Don Guardian spoke Monday at a St. Peter’s College forum on a referendum on extending casino gambling beyond his financially troubled city. The referendum goes before voters in November.
Atlantic City has had a monopoly on casinos. The state Legislature has OK’d a referendum asking residents whether to change the state constitution to stop that and to offer two casino licenses for the northern part of the state.
Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jim Kirkos says a northern New Jersey casino would help the state recapture revenue that goes to New York’s Yonkers Raceway or to eastern Pennsylvania casinos.