Hard Rock International announced last week it was dropping out of a proposed $300 million casino hotel planned for the southern end of the Boardwalk.
The highly anticipated Revel, which debuted April 2 and was heralded by many as Atlantic City's future, has performed well below expectations. The mega-casino, which received more than $300 million in state construction aid, asked lenders last month to double its credit line to $100 million to get it through the rest of the year and 2013.
Gov. Christie announced a five-year revitalization plan here two years ago, which included implementing a state-run tourism district with a new master plan intended to enhance public safety, beautify the Boardwalk, and alter Atlantic City's overall image. A five-year, $30-million-a-year marketing effort by the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance started in mid-April to tout the resort's non-gambling attractions.
The legislative panel on Wednesday will take testimony from local residents, business people, and representatives of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Atlantic City Alliance, and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, among others, on ways to boost tourism.
"It is crucial to focus on how important the success of Atlantic City is to the state of New Jersey," said Assemblyman Christopher A. Brown (R., Atlantic), a member of the Tourism and Arts Committee who collaborated with its chairman, Matthew W. Milam (D., Cape May), in bringing the panel here.
Brown said current statistics warranted it.
Tourism is the third-largest industry in New Jersey, behind pharmaceuticals and investment banking, generating $38 billion in annual revenue. Atlantic City represents 30 percent of all tourist spending, twice the amount of any other region, according to the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism.
Atlantic City alone provides more than 55,000 tourism jobs in the South Jersey region.
"Atlantic City is to tourism what the ocean is to the beach," Brown said. "Non-gaming attractions are necessary to continue to provide steady growth for economic development."
The arts, for example, may have an increasing role here. Lance Fung of New York-based Fung Collaboratives - an internationally acclaimed curator of massive, contemporary public art projects - will be presenting Wednesday. Fung, hired by the Atlantic City Alliance this year, is converting several plots of land into public art attractions to debut in the fall.
Milam said the hearing will also provide an update on how the new tourism district has fared, and what more the state Legislature could do to aid Atlantic City.
The Legislature passed several measures last year to kick-start Christie's revitalization plan, including the creation of a tourism district and the streamlining of regulations to make it easier for casino developers to enter the market.
"Atlantic City has to almost reinvent itself," said Milam, who owns a trucking company in Cumberland County. "It's the same for any business - if you don't do it, you're going to stagnate."
The hearing starts 11 a.m. Wednesday at Dante Hall Theater, part of Richard Stockton College, at 14 N. Mississippi Ave. The public is encouraged to attend.
Contact Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2855 or email@example.com.