Governor Christie’s Advisory Commission’s Report on how to improve the economic environment in Atlantic City is thoughtful and balanced. The Commission’s recommendations focus on how New Jersey can expand both its tourism and its economy; this is a goal everyone can and should support, because the entire state will benefit.
In these challenging economic times, New Jersey needs to take every step possible to create a pro-growth economic environment, and the Commission’s recommendations will do just that.
New Jersey’s Casino resorts employ 38,000 people and support nearly 60,000 additional jobs across the state. They spend nearly $2 billion a year with small business vendors in all twenty-one counties, and provide critical funding for government programs that provide transportation and prescription drugs to our senior and disabled citizens paying nearly $900 million in taxes every year. There are few industries that yield so many benefits for the Garden State.
New Jersey’s high unemployment is obviously a cause for concern. We would be foolish if we did not take every step possible to create an environment where one of our biggest employers can grow and create new jobs for our unemployed residents throughout the state.
Atlantic City supports nearly 2,000 small businesses here in New Jersey. An increase in Atlantic City’s tourism and revenue will mean real dollars in the pockets of New Jersey small business owners and their employees who live and work in all 21 counties of the state.
Atlantic City is the second largest tourist destination in the United States; with nearly 34 million visitors last year alone. However, the economic downturn and new gaming competition in neighboring states have reduced revenues for the resort.
The commission’s plan focuses on transforming Atlantic City to make it a more attractive and competitive venue expressing its unique cultures such as: the beach, its boardwalks, and its world class Convention Hall. This plan will help New Jersey effectively compete against neighboring destinations.
The report calls on the state to reduce the regulatory costs, while monitoring standards of integrity and empowering the local stake holders to innovate and revitalize what is already a multi-billion dollar industry.
The specific recommendations focus on expanding non-gaming amenities and cleaning up the streets. This could bring an overwhelming influx of new tourists into the state. The potential for growth is limitless.
A cleaner and safer Atlantic City will not only lure more convention business and tourists, it will improve the quality of life New Jerseyans enjoy across the state.
Atlantic City revenues foot nearly half the bill for vital government programs that provide transportation and prescription drugs to senior citizens and the disabled. We are all aware of the challenging fiscal crisis our state is wrestling with, programs across the board are having their funds reduced. Increasing Atlantic City’s revenues will directly increase funding for these essential programs that New Jerseyans rely on.
Atlantic City has been, and will always be, an integral part of New Jersey’s economy. Implementing the recommendations of the Governor’s Advisory Commission, a true public-private partnership, will increase tourism, create jobs and make Atlantic City a better place to live and work for all of its residents.
I urge the Governor and the legislature to quickly turn these recommendations into a reality. And I urge private industry, labor and leaders from across the state to come together to adopt this blueprint.
If Atlantic City thrives, our whole state benefits.
James J. Florio
Mr. Florio is a former Governor of the State of New Jersey.