A game-changing shift in power is about to come to Atlantic City as N.J. Gov. Chris Christie announced a shakeup of the town's casino district.
Under the plan, the state of N.J. would assume control of all tourist areas of the seaside resort -- including the boardwalk, beach, casinos, marina and shopping district, officials tell NBC Philadelphia.
The move will strip city officials from controlling everything from sanitation to public safety, officials said. The takeover was born out of a state report that criticized the Atlantic City government and it's corrupt past.
Officials have been working hard to reinvent Atlantic City as much more than just a day tripper's gambling paradise. New resorts like The Borgata and updated food and nightlife offerings were meant to put the town more inline with Las Vegas, but those efforts still haven't been able to stop revenue losses.
While a takeover is controversial, officials say something must be done.
"We're in a downward spiral, we have been for the last four years really," said N.J. State Senator and former A.C. Mayor Jim Whelan. "Doing nothing is not an option. So there are some things we have to do."
The city's 11 casinos continue to see revenue declines as the country traverses the recession and fights increased competition from new casino offerings in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
"The numbers speak for themselves. We're down over 25-percent over the past two years," State Rep. Whelan said. "And I hear some people in town say well don't panic...well when do we panic?"
Atlantic City Councilman George Tibbitt says the state helped Atlantic City get to where it is by taking revenue generated by the luxury tax.
"Atlantic City is one of the only cities in the state that doesn't get to keep their luxury tax money to put back into infrastructure. So the state has been constantly taking from us, so I welcome them to come here to help out with the problems that we face here," he said.
Headed by Jon Hanson, the Advisory Commission for the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory began looking at the state's gaming and overall entertainment operations in February.
The report calls for an expansion of Atlantic City's entertainment offerings by attracting more conventions, investing in non-gaming offerings like family amusements and possibly building a NASCAR racetrack, says The Star-Ledger. The perception of the resort's safety is also a concern, the report states.
The neighborhoods surrounding the multi-billion dollar casinos have suffered from high crime and poverty. Residents tell stories of drug and gang related shootings and just a few months ago a tourist was kidnapped from a casino parking garage.
Martin Caballero, 47, was in town from North Jersey to celebrate his daughter's birthday when he went missing from the parking garage of the Trump Taj Mahal in late May. It was later uncovered that he had been carjacked, kidnapped and killed.
His car was found torched more than 50-miles from the town and his body was found a week later riddled with stab wounds. Two people are now awaiting trial for allegedly murdering the man.
The commission's report also calls for an overhaul of the state's gaming law, a disbandment of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the sell off the under-performing Meadowlands Racetrack and refinancing of the stalled $1 billion Xanadu project at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., according to The Star-Ledger.
Christie is set to make the official announcement during a press conference in Atlantic City Wednesday at 2 p.m., officials tell NBC Philadelphia.
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