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GOMES GAMING | News | AC Summit - Jan. 5, 2010

More events, fewer regulations will strengthen Atlantic City, panels say

By MICHAEL CLARK Staff Writer | Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ATLANTIC CITY - More citywide events and fewer casino regulations were among the suggestions made Tuesday by a mixed group of city leaders meeting to find ways to improve Atlantic City.

The meeting was the third in a series of summits organized by Mayor Lorenzo Langford in his bid to unite representatives from city government, the casino industry, neighborhoods and the local business community for the common purpose of making the city more attractive to visitors, residents and businesses.

On Tuesday, the heads of three committees presented a range of proposals to Langford in a private meeting at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The committees were formed last month and asked to return with ideas.

"The more we participate in these meetings, the more we're thinking, ‘Why didn't we do this before?'" said Dennis Gomes, Presdent, CEO and Owner of Gomes Gaming Inc. and head of the committee dedicated to public relations, events and nongaming attractions.

Gomes said one focus of his committee is establishing and promoting "major events that have the support of all the constituents."

"If you talk to restaurant owners, they'll tell you when there's a citywide event, their business picks up by 50 percent," he said.

Gomes said one way to establish new events and attractions in Atlantic City is to create a partnership among the casinos. Although he was vague on details, Gomes said there have been discussions about the city's casinos possibly sharing in losses and revenue from new events.

"We're trying to develop some sort of a cooperative method so you don't have just one casino taking all the risk, because these (events) get expensive," he said. "If you have an event that ends up losing $120,000, it only amounts to a $10,000 loss if the other casinos are sharing the costs."

"The more we take risks, the more we can find out what works," he continued. "It makes things much easier if it's less expensive to take those risks."

Gomes mentioned the return of boxing as a major attraction as one possibility. He also cautioned that the suggestions made Tuesday are just the start of a long process with many more details still to be discussed.

"We're exploring how exactly to do this," he said. "We don't have anything specific. Well, what we have are fairly specific initiatives, but the devil's in the details, and we're just getting started."

Langford said Tuesday that the group has put its suggested initiatives "in three baskets: short term, medium range and long term." He added that he expects some of the suggestions made Tuesday to lead to physical changes within the next six months.

Some of those suggestions will likely come from the committee headed by Kevin DeSanctis, chairman and chief executive of the $2 billion Revel Entertainment Group casino project. The committee is mostly focused on the city's safety and cleanliness and intends to examine and identify problems near the city's three main gateways - Route 30, Route 40 and the Atlantic City Expressway - and the Boardwalk.

"There are several things here that we think we can do fairly quickly," he said Tuesday, such as establishing more lighting on the Boardwalk and preventing road flooding. "It's all a matter of identifying the areas."

DeSanctis said his committee also discussed demolition at length and focused on what would replace the abandoned buildings.

"We want to come up with a consistent look, so when you knock it down you're not just staring at another vacant lot," he said.

Most members of the group say the majority of suggestions made Tuesday revolve around long-range goals.

"Here in 2010, we're getting our feet all wet and getting our concepts in line," said Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic. "Once we get past that, we can really start to prove to everyone that Atlantic City is the place to be."

Amodeo sits on the group's government relations committee, led by Linda Kassekert, chair of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. Kassekert said Tuesday that her presentation centered on easing state and city regulations to assist development.

"A lot of times, there are instances where you need approvals from city code enforcement. On top of that, there's the DCA (Department of Community Affairs) and the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection)," she said. "So much time is wasted. We're looking for ways to streamline that process."

Kassekert said she hopes to get Neighborhood Services Director Anthony Cox and Health and Human Services Director Ronald Cash more involved in her committee meetings to discuss ways to work with health and code enforcement.

Langford continued to decline to discuss specifics about the meetings Tuesday but applauded the continued "level of cooperation and energy and the commitment thus far."

"We've got some bright people around that table," the mayor said.

Contact Michael Clark: Press of Atlantic City

What’s next?

The group will meet again in about six weeks. No specific date has been scheduled, but the group wants to allow time for subcommittees to continue meeting.


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