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Facing imminent casino closings, Atlantic City officials stress transformation

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New Jersey and Nevada are partnering to offer an interstate slot jackpot.
New Jersey and Nevada are partnering to offer an interstate slot jackpot. - (ATLANTIC CITY CONVENTION AND VISITORS AUTHORITY)

Atlantic City officials are bracing for what is expected to be a difficult Labor Day weekend as two casinos, Showboat and Revel, are scheduled to close Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, respectively.

Then, just two weeks later, Trump Plaza will close its doors Sept. 16.

“Each closing has an impact on Atlantic City, Atlantic County and New Jersey,” Mayor Don Guardian said Tuesday on a call with reporters.

That’s why Guardian and other local officials say the city is focused on transforming itself into a multifaceted entertainment destination, rather than one solely supported by the gaming industry.

In the short term, that will include the creation of an intergovernmental program designed to find alternative job placement for city residents and a $10 million employee training center at Atlantic Cape Community College, which is expected to provide training to roughly 1,200 workers each year.

“Everybody is rooting for Atlantic City’s comeback, and we will make our comeback,” Guardian said.

John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said that “great strides” had been made through the use of public-private partnerships and that the city’s tourism district is on track to add $1 billion in investments by the end of its ongoing five-year plan.

According to officials, the city has seen to date the completion of development projects worth a combined $778 million.  Another $475 million in expected developments, such as a Bass Pro Shop and the Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, is either currently under construction or in the process of getting there, officials said.

Some early concepts still in the works include a new public market and renovations to the Tropicana, according to officials.

“We want to build the visitor experience,” Palmieri said.

Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell added that a good example of what the city is trying to achieve was seen earlier this month, when two free beach concerts attracted more than 130,000 visitors.

The eight casinos that will remain open after the anticipated closures should be seen as just another attraction, coupled with the city’s other existing and planned dining and entertainment options, Cartmell said.

“I cannot stress enough that Atlantic City is open for business,” Cartmell said.

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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