[toc]Former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian oversaw one of the bleakest periods in the history of the resort town.
But he’s not going to be in office to see the end result of a potential turnaround for AC. Democrat Frank Gilliam Jr. won last week’s election after what many would call a less-than-stellar first and only term for Guardian, a Republican.
What’s all that mean for the future of the New Jersey town, both overall and for its casino industry?
Gilliam > Guardian
Gilliam did not exactly take the mayor’s office over in AC with a mandate, in narrowly defeating Guardian. That’s perhaps surprising given that Guardian was in charge when the state came in to take over the city’s finances.
To be sure, that certainly wasn’t all Guardian’s fault. The circumstances that led to AC’s financial woes and the five closed casinos in NJ came before Guardian took over. Gilliam, though, as also on the city council before and during Guardian’s term.
Coupled with the win by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, Atlantic City returns to Democratic leadership. Murphy has intimated he wants to end the state takeover instituted by outgoing Gov. Chris Christie.
That would mean AC would again be left to its own devices, for better or worse.
Gilliam comes to power with AC ascendant
There is no question the mayor elect comes into a better situation than his predecessor. Guardian was on the clock when five AC casinos closed:
- Atlantic Club
- Trump Plaza
- Trump Taj Mahal
Next year, the Taj will reopen under the direction of Hard Rock International, which is revamping and rebranding the resort. There has also been chatter that Revel (now TEN) could be sold and reopened, although that story changes weekly. Showboat is open again, as a resort only.
And thanks to the presence of NJ online gambling, casino revenues are better than they have been in years.
And things are gong well on other fronts as well. Stockton University is working on a satellite campus in the city, and South Jersey Gas will also have a new corporate headquarters in AC.
The bottom line: Gilliam is coming into a position where he’s primed to succeed.
Where does Gilliam stand on casinos and the future of AC
Casinos do not seem to be a cornerstone of the incoming mayor’s plans, even though they account for a disproportionate amount of revenue and jobs in AC.
What do we know so far? From The New Jersey Herald:
The mayor-elect wants to add affordable housing; clean up Pacific Avenue, the blighted strip that backs up to the Boardwalk casinos; attract more non-gambling development and provide incentives for small businesses.
“We’re going to be a business-friendly-orientated community, an employment-orientated community, a family-friendly-orientated community and, more importantly, we’re going to take care of our community,” Gilliam said. “Now it’s time for us to take the front seat.”
That sounds like someone who will not necessarily market AC as a gaming destination.
Where will AC head in the next four years? Well learn more in the weeks and months ahead as Gilliam’s plans and agenda become more clear.