Proposes new Tourism District to address his view that "Atlantic City is dying"

Declaring that “Atlantic City is dying,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he wants to see creation of a new Tourism District at the seaside resort within a year.

The Republican chief executive, a self-professed small government conservative, appeared in Atlantic City last week and at the Meadowlands to discuss the details of this and other elements of a special advisory commission’s proposals.

Among these is a new public-private partnership to market Atlantic City.

According to a report in The Press of Atlantic City, the new Tourism District would operate under state control but would be funded to a significant degree by casino companies and future investors. The entity would also absorb the duties of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.

Christie said also that he would make Atlantic City “safe and clean” and set a deadline of July 1, 2011, for creating a master plan for that purpose. He hopes to use casino tax revenue to remake Atlantic City’s blighted areas.

Christie criticized the resort’s government as “historically corrupt, ineffective” and “inefficient,” and decrying the state’s casino regulatory system as an “antique car,” called for reducing regulation by the Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Control Commission.

He also proposed to change the way the city is marketed and bring “certainty” to investors who were unsure if they should bring projects to the city.

The governor confirmed his opposition to any expansion of gambling outside Atlantic City. Racetrack supporters had hoped to see slot machines allowed at the Meadowlands and other tracks. Instead, the commission’s report recommends closing or selling the Meadowlands facility.

Democrats said Christie’s plan lacked specifics.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said the plan “failed to offer proposals that could actually grow the industry, attract new investment and restore the state’s reputation as the East Coast’s preeminent gaming destination.”

He said the report makes the need for a gaming summit that legislative Democrats are planning “all the more vital and pressing,” according to The Press. He said the summit would use Christie’s report as a starting point for discussions but would delve more deeply into economic and market issues.