Atlantic City’s new boss is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Jeffrey Chiesa appeared at a City Council meeting last week but revealed little about his plans for Atlantic City. The state of New Jersey recently designated the former state attorney general and U.S. senator to run the city,
“It has been two weeks,” Chiesa told the City Council and members of the public who attended the meeting, according to The Press of Atlantic City. “My plan is to do what I think is necessary to create a structural financial situation that works not for six months, not for a year, but indefinitely so that this place can flourish in a way that it deserves to flourish.”
State took control of Atlantic City
Atlantic City’s government hit rock-bottom last month when the state took over the city’s day-to-day operations.
Decimated by the closure of five of its 12 casinos since 2014 — the latest was the Trump Taj Mahal — the city’s municipal tax revenue fell by more than 70 percent over the past six years. It plummeted from $21 billion in 2010 to just $6 billion this past fiscal year. Atlantic City was approximately $500 million in debt before the state intervened.
Few details, lots of power for Chiesa
While Chiesa was short on details, he comes with plenty of power. Under the state’s rescue law passed in May, Chiesa will have the authority to sell city assets, lay off workers and break union contracts.
“What this designation has done is consolidate authority, per the legislation, in the designee to make those decisions,” Chiesa said. “That does not mean that I’m not listening. That does not mean I’m pretending I have all the answers without consulting with other people.”
Gov. Chris Christie appointed Chiesa. Christie, in a recent appearance, was also quiet on what the state had planned for AC.
He didn’t offer up specific details on what is to come. But Chiesa said one of the most pressing priorities was to reach an agreement with casinos to make payments in lieu of property taxes.
Brighter days in AC’s future?
Despite the questions swirling around Chiesa and how he and the state will begin paying down debt, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren is betting that better times are ahead for Atlantic City.
“Atlantic City’s darker days are behind it,” Murren said at the National Press Club recently.
Murren recently oversaw the MGM’s acquisition of the Borgata, Atlantic City’s market leader. MGM bought out Boyd Gaming, which was a 50-50 partner in Borgata, in August.
“It’s heartbreaking what has happened in Atlantic City,” Murren added. “I would not have just invested additionally another $800 million into Atlantic City if I did not believe that it could move forward.”