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Atlantic City delays vote on Boardwalk Hall contract

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The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority has delayed its vote on procuring a new operating contract for Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center, while the company managing the facilities for nearly two decades continues its challenge of the process through which the contract is awarded.

West Conshohocken, Pa.-based SMG filed a complaint in U.S. District Court and sent a letter to ACCVA President Jeffrey Vasser on Nov. 30 citing legal flaws in the authority's procurement process for the contract. As of Wednesday, the ACCVA had not postponed its plans to award the contract this morning, so attorneys for SMG filed a brief challenging the clause in the request for proposals requiring arbitration for any protests; a judge today ruled that clause violates state regulations.

The ACCVA subsequently pushed its vote on the facilities management contract to its next regularly scheduled board meeting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13, according to Vasser. Vasser said the agency had planned to vote on the bids at 8:30 this morning, but the meeting was restructured to take public comments — several of which came from SMG supporters who "filled the meeting room and raised additional business conflict issues," a company spokesman said in an e-mail.

According to the spokesman, those issues include officials of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Alliance — organizations funded by the casinos "which compete with Boardwalk Hall" — serving on the contract's selection committee; and Comcast-Spector subsidiary Global Spectrum, SMG's lone competitor for the contract, operating arenas located in the South Jersey region that are "Boardwalk Hall's major competition" for events.

"Our next step — which will be more aggressively pursuing conflict issues — will have to await authority action," the spokesman said. "The authority did say today they are going to have a vote next week, but from our point of view, it will still be a vote on a flawed process."

Citing potential litigation from SMG, Vasser would not comment on the procurement process, but he said in an e-mail the ACCVA board "listened to public comments and will take that under advisement."

SMG has operated Boardwalk Hall and the Convention Center for 17 years, though its current management contract for the facilities expires Dec. 31.

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