How families may save Atlantic City

How families may save Atlantic City

27 Nisan 2018 - 02:00

Belmar's Matt Doherty said goodbye to Borough Hall this month, resigning as mayor this month to become the governor's top development official in a bigger beach town 60 exits farther down the Garden State Parkway, effective July 1.

In March, Doherty was named by fellow Democrat and Monmouth County neighbor Gov. Phil Murphy to head the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, or CRDA, a state agency created in 1984 to promote growth and economic opportunity in Atlantic City, with jurisdiction over a special tourism zone containing the casinos legalized there in 1978.

The agency funds projects including murals, streetscapes, hotel room renovations and others, financed by surcharges on parking and lodging and special taxes on food, drinks and entertainment.

(NJ Advance Media)

Doherty takes the CRDA's reigns at a critical moment for the state gambling industry, which reported a 22 percent rise in profits for 2017, following years of losses and the closing of five casinos since 2014, inclulding Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Majal. With Trump Marina now known as the Golden Nugget, President Donald Trump's name has been erased from New Jersey's casino landscape. 

Two casinos are slated to re-open this year under new names and ownership — the Taj Majal as the Hard Rock, and the Revel as the Ocean Resort — and Doherty is among those eager to see just how much more gambling the downsized and newly profitable Atlantic City market will bear.

CRDA lost one of its main revenue sources last year, when a new state law restricted use of an existing 1.25 percent levy on gambling profits to the repayment of Atlantic City municipal debt. The levy raised $7.2 million in 2017, money that CRDA will no longer have to work with.

Doherty said he hopes to use his mayoral experience arranging public-private partnerships and inter-governmental agreements to encourage local growth and opportunity to supplement the CRDA's financing of special events and investments in brick-and-mortal projects.

Doherty sat down with NJ Advance Media on his last day as mayor for a look back at Belmar and ahead to Atlantic City. Some of his responses have been edited for length.


The sign in front of the old Trump Plaza, one of 5 Atlantic City casinos that went bankrupt from 2014 to 2017, including three with the current U.S. president's name of them. (Associated Press photo)

Is it good to get Donald Trump's name physically off of this town?

Yes, it is. Trump is a relic of Atlantic City's past.



Matt Doherty. (Andrew Miller | For NJ Advance Media)

After 40 years of casino gambling, can you market Atlantic City to families?

The answer is yes. Last week my two daughters had off, 13 and 10, so I went down there with them, and I worked for part of the day, then we went to the boardwalk. We went to Rain Forest Cafe. It was great, kids everywhere. We did some go-kart racing. I spent some money on them trying to win some prizes. I made a fool of myself trying to shoot baskets and being outshot by my 13-year-old daughter. And then we went to Carmine's (Italian restaurant) in the Tropicana. Walked through the Quarter, and, you know, got in the car and came home.


Fireworks around the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, where the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority contributed $18.8 million to a room restoration project. (CRDA)

Is there a way to get people to come and stay with their families, and yet also spend time at the tables?

I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I think you can do that. Has it necessarily been marketed in that manner? Not necessarily in that manner. But I think there's definitely an opportunity.   

I think we need to move beyond the ghosts of Atlantic City's past. There's truly an opportunity for a rebirth of an urban area like Atlantic City and now's the time.


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