CASINO

Atlantic City ranked worst for business as state pols seek casino closure delay

TAGs: Atlantic City, atlantic club casino hotel, don guardian, Jim Whelan, moody's investors service, revel, Showboat casino, trump plaza

atlantic-city-abandon-all-hopeWednesday brought a double whammy for the already shaky national image of Atlantic City. First, Forbes ranked the troubled seaside casino community dead last among the nation’s 200 largest metro areas in terms of business climate, which takes into account factors like employment, education levels, the costs of doing business, quality of life and a number of other metrics. For the record, this is the second year in a row that AC has occupied the lowest rung on this undignified ladder.

The day also saw credit agency Moody’s downgrade AC’s debt rating two full grades, reducing some $245m of general-obligation debt to ‘junk’ status. Moody’s justified the downgrade by citing AC’s “significantly weakened tax base, revenue-raising ability and broader economic outlook.” Factors contributing to this dire situation include “ongoing casino revenue declines, expected near-term casino closures and the impact of sizable casino tax appeals.”

Regarding those closures, State Sen. Jim Whelan and two Assembly members have asked the New Jersey Casino Control Commission (CCC) to delay the shuttering of the Showboat and Trump Plaza casinos by four months. The three lawmakers say the respective Aug. 31 and Sept. 16 closure dates don’t offer prospective buyers the chance to do due diligence or raise the necessary financing in order to acquire the properties and (hopefully) keep them operating. The pols also want the CCC to prohibit the properties’ current owners from imposing conditions on prospective buyers, such as not using the properties as casinos in the future.

CCC chairman Matthew Levinson told the Associated Press that the CCC is studying the matter but Levinson isn’t sure the CCC has the authority to approve such a request. Levinson said AC’s current circumstances are “unprecedented and present novel issues” that require careful consideration before making any decision.

Meanwhile, AC mayor Don Guardian claims to have good news regarding Revel, the other AC casino currently teetering on the edge of extinction. Revel is slated to go on the chopping, er, auction block on August 16, and its owners say it will be forced to close in September unless someone with a big checkbook and a tiny brain steps up. On Wednesday, Guardian told reporters that “behind closed doors there are a half-dozen companies looking at the opportunity to purchase Revel,” although Guardian declined to identify these prospective buyers by name.

Guardian also didn’t identify the individuals allegedly kicking the tires of the Showboat property. Tellingly, Guardian claimed to know of no one interested in the Plaza, the perennial runt of AC’s casino revenue litter. However, Guardian suggested the Atlantic Club, which closed in January before being acquired in May by Florida-based TJM Properties, might end up being sold again. Guardian said he had a meeting planned with TJM “about a potential new buyer for that property,” suggesting the hallucinogens finally wore off and TJM execs were aghast to discover whose bed they’d ended up in.

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