More than five years ago Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his five-year plan to revitalize Atlantic City, but the resort town continued to struggle. Casinos closed. The economy remained in reverse and home foreclosures skyrocketed. State legislators have not given up on turning things around in Atlantic City and one lawmaker who helped with Christie’s proposals was not ready to say the five-year plan was a failure.

“I think there’s been a lot of progress in the fact that the casinos that are operating are continuing to build the non-gaming side of the equation,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Thorofare). “The amenities, the hotels, the restaurants all continue to show growth. Yes, we have less casinos than we had, but there are many reasons for that and the big one of course is that there are just so many casinos within 100 or 75 miles of Atlantic City.”

The casino industry cannibalized itself, but the tourism industry has been pretty successful because the city has adjusted and refocused based partly on Christie’s ideas according to Burzichelli.

“I think the growth in the non-gaming area demonstrates that Atlantic City’s future is going to be bright. It’s just going to be different. It’s how you measure it. It certainly hasn’t been a home run, but I don’t think we hit into a triple play,” the assemblyman explained.

The effort to help turn Atlantic City around was scheduled to continue Thursday when the full NJ Senate will vote on three bills (A-3981/A-3984/A-3985). Christie conditionally vetoed them and suggested technical changes and the Upper House was expected to approve the changes.

The first measure is the “Casino Property Taxation Stabilization Act.” It would allow casinos to temporarily make Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) to address the dire situation in Atlantic City. It would require casinos to make payments to the city based, in part, on gaming revenues. It would also save the city save money because it wouldn’t have to battle successful casino property tax assessment appeals in court.

The second piece of legislation would reallocate the casino investment alternative tax to Atlantic City to pay debt service on municipal bonds.

The third bill would repeal a fee casinos would have to pay the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and pave the way for the private sector do spend more to market Atlantic City.

“This plan will help address the immediate fiscal crisis triggered by the multiple casino closings and downturn in the gaming industry,” said State Senate President Steve Sweeney, in an emailed statement when the bills were first approved June 25, 2015. “It will help stop the hemorrhaging and bring stability to Atlantic City’s finances and more predictability to the city’s revenues. We need to take immediate action to stabilize the existing workforce, the casinos, property taxpayers and the entire community.”

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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