A subdued Gov. Chris Christie flew into Atlantic City Monday to convene a closed-door summit to figure out ways to save this struggling resort on the Jersey Shore, but he left just one possible plan in his wake — sports betting at the casinos.
After a two-hour meeting with legislators, local politicians and casino executives, Christie wouldn’t say much of anything about what was discussed. He said another meeting would be held in 45 days.
Christie stressed the positive in Atlantic City — non-gambling revenue is up and hotel occupancy is 95 percent for 2014. But the bad news keeps piling up: A third of the city’s dozens casinos have closed this year, leaving huge hulks of glass and steel — most notably the new Revel Casino — vacant on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The city was once the dominant gambling location in the country, but with casinos popping up in almost every state, particularly neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, Atlantic City has lost its competitive edge in drawing tourists.
The effect on Atlantic City, Christie said, was “inevitable.”
Ideas to save Atlantic City abound, and include ziplines from hotels to the beach, an ecotourism park, an all-weather bubble over boardwalk and a medical marijuana distribution center. The most buzzed-about proposal is new casinos in North Jersey that would share revenue with Atlantic City, but Christie wouldn’t say too much about that.
To coincide with the summit, Christie’s office announced that one long-standing idea — legalizing sports betting at casinos and racetracks — was closer to coming to fruition. Court papers have been filed and an advisory was issued by Christie’s Acting Attorney General ordering that such sports betting be permitted.
Christie wouldn’t say how he felt about that, either.
“Fact is there’s a lot of opportunities to do some wonderful things,” he said.