When workers from the Trump Taj Mahal went on strike in July, other casinos in Atlantic City had an opportunity to move in on its customers. So where did those gamblers go?
Tropicana increased its gaming market share the most, to 13.7 percent in the second half of last year – the period that coincided with the Taj’s strike and closure – compared to 12.5 percent in the second-half 2015. Over that six-month period, Tropicana’s casino revenue increased 13 percent to $190 million from $166 million in the year-earlier July-December period.
Much of the muttering on the far end of the boardwalk during the strike centered around suspicion of a plan by Icahn Enterprises, the Taj’s owner, to close the casino in order to boost revenue at Tropicana, Icahn Enterprises’ other property. The Taj Mahal’s strike lasted until the casino closed in October.
In May last year Atlantic City’s water authority hired advisory firm Acacia Financial Group to craft a concession agreement that would help the authority both retain its independence and stave off a state takeover of the city.
The non-profit development company behind the $206 million project to build Stockton University an Atlantic City campus was little more than a shell company in 2015, with no staff and a tiny revenue eked out from parking fees, according to its latest tax filing.
Starting off with a feel-good story – 15 new bald eagle pairs were spotted this nesting season in New Jersey, 12 of them in South Jersey. More than half the state’s nests were in Cumberland, Salem and Cape May counties, according to an observers project run by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. You can read their report here and the NJ Advance Media story on the findings here. CRDA
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority held its first meeting yesterday with new executive director, fresh-faced 32-year-old Chris Howard. The Press of Atlantic City covered the meeting and the challenges ahead of the Authority, which has seen almost a third of its budget redirected to the city itself.
When the Taj Closed, Who Gained? It might not surprise you to learn that Tropicana was the biggest beneficiary from the Taj’s strike and closure last year (Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal have the same owner – Icahn Enterprises). Perhaps more interesting from our exclusive analysis of the winners and losers since the Taj strike is that the Caesars properties lost casino market share. You can read the full story here on Route 40, with data. Safer Oxy Led To More Deaths
We have been following the opioid epidemic in Atlantic County closely and anyone else who is interested should take a look at this piece by Zachary Siegel in the Daily Beast.
Atlantic City’s Water
Atlantic City’s water authority in May hired a well-known New Jersey-based financial advisor to help it craft a concession plan that could free up some cash for the debt-laden casino resort and stave off a state takeover. Just a few months later, the financial advisor abruptly abandoned its contract with the water authority to begin working with the New Jersey department that would eventually take over Atlantic City. What exactly happened, and what might the state’s insight into the water authority, gleaned through advisor Acacia Financial, mean for its future? Route 40 takes a look here. Policing
Meanwhile, the city’s police will show up for work no matter what happens in talks with the state over cuts to the force or salaries and benefits, PBA president Matt Rogers said, responding to rumors of a strike.
Kings of Leon
The band Kings of Leon were in Atlantic City this week, which appears to have been a very-well-kept secret (until the careful PR campaign that announced it). They were there to rehearse an upcoming world tour, according to Atlantic City Weekly, but maybe it was some very smart thinking by Comcast’s venue management company Spectra, which operates Boardwalk Hall and Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center (coincidence! Kings of Leon play there next Thursday). In which case, hopefully Spectra is cottoning on finally to how to exploit its Philadelphia/AC synergies. There’s another issue here that kind of fascinates me: having a band like Kings of Leon come and ‘rehearse’ secretly-but-not-really is the kind of stealth marketing that Atlantic City really needs.
Atlantic City Area Has An Amazing Community Spirit
It’s not quite the middle of January, everyone’s got energy bills, taxes and that back-to-work-or-school feeling on their mind. But a video of Alex, a homeless man who is well-known to many in the area, was posted by the Atlantic City Crust Kings and there’s been a spontaneous outpouring of affection for him and a successful fund-raising campaign. And it’s not about the money. You should read the comments and willingness to help here on the Scan AtlanticCity page and watch the video:
Sometimes it’s really hard not to be ground down around here by the foreclosures or the drug crisis or the casino job losses or just the winter weather. People are still angry after a divisive election.
We covered the State of the State address here and while everyone focused on the outgoing governor’s main message on tackling the drug crisis, he also alluded to more reforms to the state’s public-sector pensions. Those comments seemed important but they have not gotten as much coverage. This is from his transcript, on the subject of the state’s pension system: “We have done more to restore solvency to this broken system than any recent group of leaders in this city. There is more to do and I will present more ideas to finish the job we started in 2011 when I present you with my 2018 budget.” So there’s that to listen out for.
Mazzeo, Whelan Worried By Chiesa Cuts
The governor’s emissary to Atlantic City, Jeffrey Chiesa, would like to cut 101 firefighting jobs from the Atlantic City Fire Department, as part of a commitment to public safety and economic revitalization in the World’s Playground. Cuts to the ACPD are on the horizon as well. This is old news, as we say. The new news is that local representatives Sen. Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, having sponsored the legislation that brough Chiesa and his mighty hatchet to Atlantic City, now possess concerns he may wield that hatchet too frothily. “We must be cognizant of public safety concerns related to a depleted and understaffed public safety department,” they wrote, in a letter to Chiesa, obtained by the Press of Atlantic City.
Flu Rate Rises
If the snow on the ground wasn’t enough to remind you winter is really here, NJTV adds to the seasonal feeling with this look at how flu cases are up from last year. The state’s department of health data (if you prefer your information direct from the source, it’s here) shows there were 145 new cases in December, with the worst of the outbreak in the northeast of the state. NJTV has both good and bad news about the particular strain causing the illness this year, H3N2. Edward Lifshitz, director of the state’s Communicable Disease Service, told the TV station it is a close match to the vaccine but it is a strain that can cause more severe illness, particularly for young children and the elderly. Jingoli & AC
After Bill Sprouse’s Route 40 story last week looking into why an entire Atlantic City neighborhood is filled with vacant lots, councilman Marty Small gave us some more insight into what happened when New Jersey construction and real estate moguls Joseph Jingoli and Jack Morris approached the council with a plan for some of the land. Small said the vote against their plan was “nothing against Jingoli” but the councilman who represents that neighborhood didn’t get a chance to meet with the developers and hear details of the plan before the project was “shoved down city council’s throats.”
Little Rock Films + Studios opened in Ventnor at the end of last year. Run by Dina Engel and Sherry McCracken, Little Rock offers acting, photography, filmmaking and writing classes and workshops from their beautiful space on Atlantic Avenue.
These are the classes and workshops on offer this month:
South Inlet booster and super-dynamic A.C. Press reporter Hannah Schweder has an adorable profile that old Atlantic City hands will appreciate, on Shirley and Milton Gordon, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last week. They started the businesses that became Gordon’s Alley. Shirley’s father had a hotel that was urban renewal-ed out of existence by Pauline’s Prairie. Now Gordon’s Alley is being urban renewal-ed out of existence by the CRDA! Sorry.
Still Empty After All These Years
Route 40 dug into the story of a vegetable patch, a South Jersey power broker, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City property tax crisis, and this was the result – a long read that will tell you all you need to know about why the South Inlet is so resolutely empty. So long, Pleasantville Kmart
The Pleasantville Kmart is among the victims of a nationwide Kmart Kull, according to The Press of Atlantic City. “They’re going to be sadly missed,” said the Pleasantville mayor. The closure will leave a large hole in a strip mall along the Black Horse Pike, where the John Brooks Recovery Center recently opened an outpatient clinic. Meanwhile, just up the road, Mercedes Benz and Porsche dealerships are moving in. There is another story to be written, some time, about the madness of piecemeal development in South Jersey suburbs…
In mid-August of last summer a real estate investor from Florida named Bruce Pender bought a small plot of land in the South Inlet neighborhood of Atlantic City. He paid $25,000 to acquire 206 S. Vermont Avenue, tax records show. The old owner, Seaview Property Development of Turnersville, had been sitting on the land since 2005.
Casino Taxes (And The Taj Mahal)
Atlantic City’s casinos paid more in gaming and resort taxes to New Jersey last year, bucking a decade-long trend of slumping tax revenue from the sector, Route 40 reported exclusively here. The numbers from the Division of Gaming Enforcement indicate the sector’s declining revenue is flatlining – largely helped by a pickup in online gaming. The numbers, however, are through the end of June last year, meaning that they don’t include the closure of the Trump Taj Mahal. Speaking of which, Icahn told the AP that he has no immediate plans to sell the Taj, but he did change its deed so that he could reduce his property tax bill. PILOT Fight
The Press of Atlantic City’s Christian Hetrick reports from yesterday’s county freeholders’ meeting that the freeholders are withholding $12.8 million from the city, until the city pays the county its 13.5 percent share of the casinos’ Payments In Lieu of Taxation (PILOT). “The stress on the Atlantic County budget, and therefore on the residents of Atlantic County, has the potential to be tremendous if the county does not receive its fair share,” Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said.