Several months ago, I was asked to meet with Curtis Bashaw at his Chelsea Hotel. I went to the meeting wondering what he wanted to talk about. He stated he felt that something needed to be done to boost the number of people coming into the city and that he believed that smaller hotels, such as his 300-room property, would help to achieve that if they had a small casino on the premises.
I listened to his pitch and told him I didn’t agree with him. I told him that his proposition would be unfair to the current facilities that all had to build a minimum 500-room hotel with amenities such as a theater, restaurants and retail units. Their investments ranged from $500,000 to more than $2 billion. We finished our talk and left with our difference of opinion.
A few months later, State Sen. Jim Whelan, while on his monthly visit to my radio show, brought up a proposal of having 200-room casinos in Atlantic City. He stated that this would help to infuse more business into Atlantic City, as the new 200-room casinos would help to stimulate business on the Boardwalk as well as bring additional casino revenue to the state. At that time, I expressed my opposition to this proposal. I felt that it would provide competition to our present casinos and that that was the last thing they need at this particular time.
We had a few calls from listeners, both pro and con, and we finished the interview and departed with our opposing beliefs intact.
Obviously the idea has taken legs, as last Monday, March 22, Whelan introduced a bill that would permit four 200-room hotels to have 20,000-square-foot casinos. In a story in Sunday’s edition of our local daily newspaper, Whelan said the reason for this bill was that we have too many plots of derelict and abandoned land on the Boardwalk and that we need to find a way to fill in those gaps. It is interesting to note that the bill includes the possibility of existing non-casino hotels being converted into small gaming halls. Among them is the Chelsea Hotel which, by the way, is not on the Boardwalk, is already built, and would not be filling any derelict or abandoned land.
According to the article, Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Properties, said, “I think the whole thing is ludicrous. You want to have a Las Vegas strip or downtown Las Vegas? Downtown Las Vegas is what we are morphing into and that’s not good.” He continued by stating that Atlantic City is already struggling against casinos in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and that new, smaller casinos along the Boardwalk would simply intensify the competition. “One thing we don’t need right now is additional casino space,” said Juliano.
The story also noted that Whelan doubted existing casinos would be hurt by his proposal. He said, “Status quo cannot continue. If we do not make change, we will continue to slide backwards.” The bill further states that a 200-room hotel would have 20,000 square feet of gaming space, or could start with 30,000 square feet of gaming space and 200 rooms, but would need to expand to 500 rooms within five years. They would pay five percent of gross receipts into a special fund. The money would be used to help them finance their expansion. If they do not expand, the money would be used to fund public improvements in Atlantic City or help existing casinos finance upgrades with low-interest loans.
People have expressed concern about how Revel’s forthcoming hotel-casino would affect the casinos that are currently having financial problems. Similarly, how would the four 200-room casinos affect the ailing casinos? If one is located at Albany Avenue and another on Chelsea Avenue, it is my belief they would have a negative effect on the Hilton and the Tropicana.
Notes of Interest
For the third consecutive weekend, the Jersey Shore towns were loaded with people and cash registers were ringing. From the sub shops to the gourmet restaurants and everything in between, business was booming. In Atlantic City, it was a combination of the Carrie Underwood concert on Friday night, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the Boardwalk on Saturday, the Beer Festival at the Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, and the desire of people to take advantage of the first weekend of 70-degree temperatures.
There was much concern about how the Caesars Tennis Classic would do. I am happy to inform you that most of the high-priced seats have been sold. And most of the purchasers are from out of the area. The folks who are promoting the Classic are selling most of their tickets to people in northern New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. This speaks well for the event, as these folks will be coming to town and more than likely staying overnight. If it is as successful as anticipated, we may look forward to it happening again next year.
The Atlantic City Airshow, which last year drew a record crowd of 700,000 spectators, will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The Greater Atlantic City Regional Chamber of Commerce is endeavoring to increase the attraction for this midweek event. As many of you know, Tuesday, the day before the show, is the practice day and almost all of those participating will be flying the course throughout the day. This is quite an attraction in itself and it needs to be publicized. Hopefully the Chamber will be able to put together a free musical attraction on the beach for Tuesday evening that will entice people to come into the city and spend the night. Not only will they see the aircraft flying for two days, they will also have the opportunity to enjoy exciting free entertainment. I urge you to make your room reservations early.
Pinky’s Corner airs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm on News Talk WOND-AM 1400. His TV show, WMGM Presents Pinky, airs Saturday at 7:30pm on TV40. Pinky’s e-mail address is: email@example.com.
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