Atlantic City businesses say political crisis starting to hurt economy
Any optimism surrounding the convention business in Atlantic City this year has been erased almost completely by the continued impasse over how to solve the city's financial crisis.
The group devoted to promoting Atlantic City to the conference and meeting market claims the current situation is having an impact on the industry that's bordering on disastrous.
In a conversation with New Jersey 101.5, Meet AC President Jim Wood said customers are being lost each day that a solution is not reached by politicians in Trenton. Leads are drying up, potential customers are choosing other cities as their convention destination, and some existing customers are hesitant to sign contracts without an option that lets them drop out in the event of financial ruin.
"We're probably sitting on a 5.0, 6.0 earthquake right now, and we've just got to get this resolved as soon as we can because we can't continue this pace," Wood said. "It causes more and more damage as each day rolls."
Just months ago, as the resort city's financial crisis began to grab headlines, business leaders were optimistic that troubles at City Hall would not hurt their bottom line. But as the impasse has dragged on, their outlook has changed.
Earlier this year, it was projected that 300,000 hotel room nights would be booked in Atlantic City in 2016 due to conventions. Today, that forecast is down to 180,000 hotel room nights.
A letter from Meet AC was sent on May 2 to Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Don Guardian, and legislative leaders asking them to "come to the table" and reach an agreement on a solution for the city.
"The ongoing political battles and economic news has all but erased the two years of positive momentum and publicity Meet AC has invested and worked so hard as an organization to achieve," the letter read.
Despite a failed attempt to garner enough support for his own rescue plan, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto refuses to post legislation from Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney for a vote. Their plan calls for a state takeover, while Prieto's proposal gives city officials more time to get their finances in order.