[Update: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 3 p.m.] After publication of this op-ed, Philly mag learned that the author performed public relations work for the National Action Network, an organization that is a central player in this controversy. That fact should have been disclosed to readers. Citified regrets the omission.
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider. McCalla is a policy consultant who has provided pro bono advice to mayoral candidate Anthony H. Williams and other candidates this election cycle.)
To quote the lyrics of famed Rapper Flo Rida, “It’s goin’ down fo’ real”!
At the August 18th meeting of the City Planning Commission, fat-cat executives and exquisitely dressed lobbyists from the Cordish Companies presented their preliminary plans for Live! Hotel & Casino, to be located in the South Philly Sports Complex.
It was there and then that Paula Peebles, local founder and chair of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, informed commissioners that her organization was aware of and concerned by unresolved lawsuits alleging racial discrimination at casinos Cordish operates (eight have been filed since 2010, in which plaintiffs say, for instance, the company used dress codes as pretense to keep black patrons out). Peebles warned that NAN would conduct its own probe and, if the group found the allegations credible, she would lead it in a battle to oppose commission and City Council approval of the gambling house.
This put NAN nose to nose with the politically potent Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. Read more »
2014 was a brutal year in Atlantic City : 8,000 jobs were lost in 2014 after the closure of four of the city’s 12 struggling casinos.
Now the Media Mobilizing Project has released a documentary , Building a Sandcastle: A Broken Promise to Atlantic City, that tracks the lives of unemployed casino workers from the many high-profile closures that occurred in 2014.
“The casinos industry in this area, and our union, is like the lifeblood of the communities around here,” said Alfred Kare sadly, a server at the Trump Taj Mahal. Read more »
Photo | Dan McQuade
It was more than four years ago that Chris Christie signed legislation approving new boutique casinos in Atlantic City. Despite interest from a few groups and one submitted proposal, no boutique casinos ever opened. Then, four large casinos closed in 2014.
But the interest in boutique casinos remains, and this week an assembly panel advanced a bill that would ease some of the requirements for smaller casinos.
The old bill required one of two boutique casinos to eventually expand to a casino with 500 rooms, and mandated both boutique casinos in the pilot program be new construction. The new bill would eliminate both requirements; the new casinos would still need to have at least 200 rooms to also operate gambling. Read more »
A New Jersey man was arrested Friday after he peed in the coin tray of a slot machine at a Pennsylvania casino.
William Compton, a 53-year-old man from Manalapan, New Jersey, reportedly was taken into custody after he refused to leave Parx Casino, and additionally charged resisting arrest by Pennsylvania State Police. Read more »
Resorts and the Trump Taj Mahal were the only two Atlantic City casinos that posted operating losses for the first quarter of 2015. (Photo: Dan McQuade)
Atlantic City’s casinos recently reported a bit of good news: Gross casino operating profits more than doubled in the first quarter. The eight remaining casinos made $81.3 million — compared with $38.8 million in 2014.
Obviously, these numbers are skewed: In the first quarter of 2014, casinos had deep losses from Revel dragging down these numbers. But now that Revel and other struggling casinos (and the still-profitable Showboat) have closed, the situation has leveled out. Winter is not the easiest time for a resort town to turn a profit, and all but Resorts and the Trump Taj made money.
But obviously the news can’t be all good for AC’s casino industry. Speaking at the East Coast Gambling Conference on Wednesday, a Wall Street analyst said more casino closures were likely. Read more »
Atlantic City in February 2015 (Photo | Dan McQuade)
On Tuesday, Atlantic City’s Chris Christie-appointed emergency management team released its first report. The results were grim.
“The acute financial distress facing the City is imminent and the causes of such distress are not transitory,” emergency manager Kevin Lavin wrote in the report. “Absent an urgent, material realignment of revenues and expenses, this crisis will rapidly deepen and will threaten the City’s ability to deliver and maintain essential government services impacting the health, safety and welfare of its residents.” Christie’s executive order required Lavin and consultant Kevyn Orr, who handled Detroit’s bankruptcy, to issue a report within 60 days.
“It’s actually a lot more severe than we thought when we started 60 days ago,” Lavin said, though he and Orr said bankruptcy was not being considered. Atlantic City has a $101 million city budget shortfall and a $47 million deficit in the school district. The managers recommended $10 million in city cuts, including hundreds of layoffs, and appointing mediators to work with casinos and unions.
New Jersey State Senate president Steve Sweeney lambasted the report: “This report does nothing more than dramatize the fiscal crisis in Atlantic City … Today’s report was 60 days in the making and it reached the same conclusions that we did in November: that decisive action is needed to stabilize Atlantic City’s finances, reduce expenses, protect local taxpayers and reposition the casino industry for future growth.” Sweeney has proposed his own plan that includes a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program for the casinos.
Sweeney is right: The report does dramatize Atlantic City’s fiscal crisis. You can read it at the end of this post. But since it’s essentially just a stop-gap report — another one is due in 90 days — let’s take a look at some of its charts that illustrate the bad shape A.C. is in. Read more »
A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)
You’re not going to believe this.
No, wait, you probably will. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gloria M. Burns today did not approve the sale of the failed Revel casino to Glenn Straub. The hold-up is a pending appeal by several clubs and restaurants inside Revel that opposed Straub’s purchase of Revel. Burns stayed that sale in January.
Here’s where things get complicated: That sale is actually dead. Straub didn’t complete it. But Revel and Straub then struck a deal for Revel at a lower price. Still, per the Inquirer, the previous ruling means Burns doesn’t have jurisdiction to approve the new sale.
But wait, there’s more. Read more »
Slot machines in Atlantic City in November 2014
When a casino says it has loose slots, it doesn’t mean this loose.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced on Tuesday it has fined Caesars $5,000 for losing two slot machines and reporting that all machines had been accounted for. A spokesperson for the DGE said the two slot machines are still missing.
Caesars, which did not respond to a request for comment, reached a settlement with casino regulators over the missing slot machines. Regulators said Caesars discovered it couldn’t find two machines when it was moving machines around in November 2013, but still reported on monthly filings that it knew where all of the machines were.
Read more »
A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)
The future of the closed Revel casino, Atlantic City’s $2.4 billion boondoggle, continues to be up in the air. Not long after a judge placed the sale to Glenn Straub on hold, the power plant that continues to serve Revel says it will shut off heat, water and electricity at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Although it’s closed, the building still needs power to prevent the elements from ravaging Revel. “If you shut down the electric utilities to the building, you’re going to get an instant build-up of heat and humidity inside the building [in hot weather], both of which are terrible for finishes, equipment, and everything else that’s inside that building,” Greg Lucado, director of construction-management programs at Philadelphia University, told the Inquirer. “You’ve got a very high humidity environment,” Drexel construction management professor Douglas Carne told the Press of Atlantic City. “That will be almost impossible to control without air handlers operating.” He noted that this would make fungus a factor.
In court filings, a judge wrote that there is no other way for Revel to get power than through ACR’s plant.
Read more »
Photo | Dan McQuade
Chris Christie took a controversial step today that has some Atlantic City politicians fuming. At his third summit on the city’s future, Christie announced the appointment of Kevin Lavin and Kevyn Orr as emergency managers in Atlantic City. Lavin, the emergency manager, and Orr, his special counsel, will have broad powers in A.C.
Lavin, who most recently worked at FTI Consulting, has years of experience in corporate restructuring. Kevyn Orr was Detroit’s emergency manager during its bankruptcy proceedings.
Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in December, shedding $7 billion of its $18 billion in debt. There are not any immediate plans to push Atlantic City into bankruptcy, though it is assumed they are on the table.
“I don’t think the residents will be very happy,” Chris Filiciello, a spokesman for Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, told the Wall Street Journal. “They elected the mayor to represent them. He has been fulfilling his duties to the best of his ability and we’d like to know what an emergency manager would do that the mayor hasn’t done already.”
Read more »