NJ gov confident Atlantic City will rebound

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - August 12, 2011

On the inside, its a chaotic, raw construction site, with little indication of the slot machines and blackjack tables that will fill the Revel casino when it opens less than a year from now.

The 53-story, 6.3 million-square-foot colossus symbolizes both the seemingly endless pitfalls that have plagued its development and a burgeoning hope for struggling Atlantic City's future.

But as Gov. Chris Christie toured the construction site Friday, he said he is confident the ocean-themed casino will thrive, Atlantic City will rebound, and the hundreds of millions of dollars New Jersey has invested will pay off.

"We're going to see a turnaround here," Christie said on the building's roof, flanked by some of the thousands of construction workers the project has put to work. "I'm confident in it. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be investing what I'm investing."

That investment amounts to $261 million in state tax credits pledged to the project, which was started in 2007 but stalled after it ran out of money. Financial firm Morgan Stanley pulled out of the more than $2 billion project in 2010, walking away from about a billion it had already invested.

Union workers sued the state over its offer of tax credits, voicing concerns that the new mega-casino would cannibalize revenues from Atlantic City's 11 other casinos and put thousands of workers out of their jobs. Amid the nationwide economic downturn that has left Americans with less discretionary income, casino revenues in Atlantic City have slumped. And growing competition from gambling facilities in neighboring states has raised fears of an oversaturated market.

None of that is evident from the sheer size of the Revel casino: 3,800 hotel rooms, 160,000-square feet of meeting space, a 5,000-seat theater and 150,000-square-foot casino floor. Visitors will be able to swim - year-round - under a wall from an indoor pool to an outdoor pool, one of at least four rooftop wading spots.

The state says more than 10,000 jobs are being created as a result of the project. His youngest daughter, Bridget, in tow, Christie said his goal is for New Jersey's highest profile tourist spot to be a viable place for generations to come.

"Some day, when she gets older, I want her to be able to live here," he said.

Nine months before its planned May 2012 opening, the inside is a dimly lit array of concrete, the echoey halls punctuated by the beeping of tractors and the swoosh of the blow torches being handled by workers atop cherry pickers.

And noticeably absent at the governor's visit Friday was Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who has sparred with Christie over the designation of a state-supervised tourism district in Atlantic City, intended to improve safety and cleanliness and spur growth. Langford opposes what he has called state intrusion on the city's self-governance.

Messages left Friday for Langford were not immediately returned.

Part of the tourism district plan calls for heightened state police presence to ward off the kind of violent incidents that have grabbed attention in recent months and years along the boardwalk. Christie said he's not satisfied yet because the plan hasn't been fully implemented, but that progress is being made.

Also Friday, Christie completed a week of visits to Jersey Shore boardwalks to tout his efforts to boost tourism and protect the environment. All week, Christie mingled with beachgoers and shore town residents, telling of the $650 million in loans for water protection projects he approved last week. Environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers have denounced his visits as photo opportunities intended to distract attention away from other environmental protection measures Christie has vetoed, including legislation to clean up storm water systems.

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