Here’s Why Donald Trump’s Opponents Keep Attacking Him Over This Tiny Atlantic City House

Vera Coking House - Atlantic City - 1990s

The Vera Coking House in Atlantic City, photographed by Jack E. Boucher in the early 1990s. (Photo via the Library of Congress)

Jeb Bush attacked Donald Trump about his treatment of a widow in the 1990s on Saturday night.

This isn’t the first time it’s come up. Bush was talking about the saga of Vera Coking, a woman in Atlantic City who refused to sell her home to developers building casinos in the 1980s and ’90s. It wasn’t the first time Trump has been hit with this attack. Ted Cruz, currently Trump’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination according to polls, even put out an ad attacking Trump for his battle with Coking.

So why is this battle from the early 1990s getting such attention in the Republican primary? It’s all about Trump’s attempt to use eminent domain on Coking’s Atlantic City house. Read more »

Atlantic City Could Run Out of Money By the End of Month

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Shutterstock.com

Atlantic City’s government could be out of money by the end of the month.

The declaration by the city’s attorney came in response to the Borgata’s announcement that it would not pay its first-quarter real estate taxes.

Atlantic City owes the city $62.5 million after the Borgata successfully appealed its property taxes several years in a row. The government of Atlantic City missed a deadline in December for the $62.5 million payment, which is for 2009 and 2010. The city owes the Borgata an additional $88 million in tax refunds for 2011 through 2015. Read more »

Bankruptcy Round Up: Tony’s Baltimore Grill and Johnny Manana’s

Tony's Baltimore Grill has filed for bankruptcy protection but remains open.

Tony’s Baltimore Grill has filed for bankruptcy protection but remains open.

Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City has filed for bankruptcy. Co-owner Christopher Tarsitano tells the Atlantic City Press that a $715,000 bill for withdrawing from a pension fund is to blame. In 2014, the business left Local 54, the Atlantic City hospitality workers union and the National Retirement Fund. Tarsitano says the business was paying$10-15,000 per month for ten employees to receive health and pension benefits. By withdrawing from the fund, the business is on the hook for a “withdrawal liability.” That’s where the $715,000 comes from. Tarsitano tells the Press, the business will not close and remains open as it has since 1927.

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Gov. Christie Announces “Partnership” — Not State Takeover — in Atlantic City

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo | Mark Humphrey)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo | Mark Humphrey)

Call it a state takeover. Call it a “partnership.” Call it … well, “You can call it what you want to call it,” in the words of Gov. Chris Christie.

Either way, the state government of New Jersey is set to move gain more control over Atlantic City’s finances. Christie, flanked by N.J. Senate president Steve Sweeney and Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, announced today at a press conference that legislation will be forthcoming on the issue.

Atlantic City will finally get its PILOT bill, which gives the city more predictable payments from the city’s casinos and which Christie let die last week, while the state will get the power to terminate local union collective bargaining agreements, privatize utilities and other financial powers over the financially troubled casino resort town.

“Atlantic City’s finances are now the greatest threat to the city’s well-being,” Christie said at the press conference announcing the “partnership” this afternoon. “The urgency of the city’s current financial predicament cannot be overstated.”

Sweeney said a takeover bill already in the legislature will be amended with the PILOT program and other state aid to the city. Read more »

Bankruptcy A Possibility for Atlantic City After Christie Veto

Atlantic City beach and boardwalk at twilight

Photo | Dan McQuade

Atlantic City could be out of cash by April.

That’s according to Mayor Don Guardian, who said estimates have the city running out of money in just a few months if state aid doesn’t come. “Bankruptcy is now back on the table,” Guardian said in a release. “If the state is not able to come up with the funding we need within the next few weeks, we will have no choice but to declare bankruptcy.”

Until yesterday, Atlantic City thought it was getting that funding: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn’t sign a bill that would plug $33.5 million in a state budget gap. It is essentially a veto.

It gets worse: In November, Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill, telling lawmakers he wanted the state to have more control over the funds going to Atlantic City. Lawmakers acquiesced, passing a new bill in line with what Christie requested. He let it sit until the bill died yesterday at noon.

Guardian, a Republican like Christie, released a statement blasting the decision.

“Governor Chris Christie and State Senate President Steve Sweeney initially reached out to Atlantic City last year and told us of their plans to draft a PILOT bill that would greatly aid our financial recovery,” Guardian said in the statement. “It wasn’t a perfect bill, but it was a bill that everyone could agree on. The bill was discussed, debated, and deliberated about endlessly. Then there was radio silence. We needed a decision and anticipated an answer on this crucial bill many, many months ago. All of us worked hard on the passage of this bill for over 18 months. So much time was wasted. And today, we finally have received that answer from the Governor.

“I must say, we are tremendously frustrated by the veto of this crucial bill because of all the hard work and effort that went into crafting this bill, for all the consensus building in the New Jersey Legislature that has gone for naught, and for all the cooperation locally that is now cancelled. It is certainly disappointing.” Read more »

Bart Blatstein Now Owns the Former Showboat Casino

Showboat Casino

Showboat Casino after it closed in 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Last Friday, Stockton University closed on a deal where the school sold the former Showboat Casino to the Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein.

Stockton originally purchased the old Showboat casino from Caesars Entertainment in 2014 with the intention of using it as a hotel and the centerpiece of their new “island campus.” (Stockton University’s main campus is in Galloway Township, on the mainland near Atlantic City.)

But competing pacts on the site — Caesars said it couldn’t be used as a casino, while the nearby Trump Taj Mahal had a pact saying it could only be used for a casino — held up the conversion. Stockton said Carl Icahn, poised to take control of the Taj as it exits bankruptcy, wanted 1,331 hotel rooms in exchange for waiving the pact. The boondoggle eventually led to the end of Stockton University president Herman Saatkamp’s tenure and an unknown future for the site. Read more »

Appeals Court: Trump Taj Mahal Can Strip Union Benefits

Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City

Photo | Dan McQuade

A federal appeals court has ruled that Trump Entertainment — the parent company of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City — can strip pension and health benefits from about 1,100 union workers at Trump Taj Mahal. The fight may not be over: Previously, UNITE-HERE Local 54 said it would appeal to the Supreme Court if it lost at the appeals level.

Trump Entertainment Resorts no longer has a connection to Donald Trump other than an agreement to use the name. If the union decides not to appeal to a higher court or exhausts its appeals, the company will execute its plan to emerge from bankruptcy: Trump Entertainment’s chief lender, Carl Icahn, will take over the company. Read more »

Atlantic City “Polercoaster” One Step Closer to Reality

ac-polercoaster1

Earlier this month, the Atlantic City Casino Redevelopment Authority formally approved the Polercoaster, a 350-foot-tall rollercoaster and drop-tower thrill ride developer Joshua Wallack plans for part of the space formerly occupied by the Sands Casino.

The Polercoaster will be the premiere attraction at an entertainment complex which will fill the lot that’s roughly bordered by the boardwalk, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Mount Vernon and Kentucky.

The CDRA says that in addition to the vertical rollercoaster, the venue will also have a food court, restaurant and bar, retail space, lockers, video games and office space. It will be directly accessible from the boardwalk. “This exciting, state-of-the-art interactive program will be equipped to display important announcements, advertising, upcoming entertainment and events in the city, and will add to our visitors’ positive experience,” CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said. Read more »

Will Atlantic City’s Gambling Monopoly Be in New Jersey Voters’ Hands?

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Shutterstock.com

Jersey voters in November could be asked to vote on whether casino gambling should be expanded beyond Atlantic City’s borders — a move that some observers say would further damage the city’s already-struggling economy.

AP reports the proposed referendum would ask voters to approve casinos for two separate northern New Jersey counties. The locations aren’t specified, but the Meadowlands in East Rutherford has been frequently mentioned as a future casino site. Read more »

City With Biggest Unemployment Rate Drop is … Atlantic City?

Yes, there were four casino closures in the past two years. Yes, it had the highest foreclosure rate in the country for four consecutive months. Yes, the Revel casino sits vacant — looking like a weird post-apocalyptic fortress.

But alas, there’s good economic news out of Atlantic City. It had the largest drop in unemployment rate of any U.S. metropolitan city, according to Reuters. Measured year-over-year from October to October, Atlantic City’s jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent — 2.5 percentage points lower than last year. Read more »

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