By Cleve Bryan and Tim Jimenez
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., (CBS) — With dozens of local residents protesting their exclusion, New Jersey lawmakers and Governor Chris Christie met in Atlantic City to discuss the city’s future.
“There is reason for real hope,” Christie said after the meeting with local elected officials, labor leaders and casino CEO’s at the headquarters for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA).
Christie would not provide any details about suggested fixes for the ailing shore community but said complaints and possible solutions were laid out in bi-partisan discussion.
As many as 6,000 casino workers could be unemployed by the closures of the Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza casinos.
Prior to Christie’s arrival several dozen people staged a protest outside the CRDA calling for help to lower property taxes and promote job growth in Atlantic City.
Many like Theresa Volpe, who is about to be laid-off from her waitress job at Trump Plaza, were upset the meeting was closed to the media and public.
“We are stakeholders. We asked for this meeting to be held at the convention center as opposed to here to let us all be involved,” says Volpe.
Emily Vu has helped organized several protests against hefty property tax increases in Atlantic City and gave suggestions to Mayor Don Guardian before he walked into the meeting.
“We would like you to ask the Governor for an additional $20M in state aid this year,” said Vu.
The meeting lasted more than 2 hours and was followed by statements from Christie and leaders in the New Jersey Legislature.
“It was not a pretend meeting in there. It was 2 hours and 15 minutes of some very candid discussion,” Christie said.
Concerns, complaints and possible solutions laid out, he says. But no specifics from the Governor. He said in the short-term they’re trying to help the thousands of casino workers who lost their jobs, and continue to focus on non-gaming revenue, though gambling, he says, is still important.
“While there are lots of people out there who are declaring the demise of the city, that is far from true. You have a $2 and a half billion gaming industry here. I think almost any state in America would be happy to take that $2 and a half billion asset,” Christie said.
“We had some honest conversation but nobody’s feelings were hurt and we move forward,” said NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester County).
Sweeney has recently said expanding gaming to allow casinos in North Jersey can’t be ignored as a way to funnel money into Atlantic City.
Christie said that allowing casinos in North Jersey is on the table.
The next meeting is set for a month and a half in Atlantic City.
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