State Senator Jeff Van Drew today said a complete revamping of Atlantic City’s tourism district is the key to revitalizing the gaming city, and said a state police presence should be the Legislature’s first plan of action in that effort.
“As much as I am an advocate for Atlantic City, it’s unrealistic for us to expect tourists to make it their new vacation destination unless we first change the perception that it’s a dangerous city,” said Senator Van Drew. “In order to do that, we must make the presence of law enforcement known, particularly in the tourism district – increasing the number of officers on the ground should be our first plan of action in our effort to revitalize the resort town.”
Senator Van Drew began the process today of crafting legislation to empower the New Jersey State Police, including the officers within the Division of Gaming Enforcement, to conduct patrols in the areas of Atlantic City’s casinos and the boardwalk. He is also exploring a number of funding sources to improve the infrastructure in the tourism district, particularly to renew the boardwalk and streetscapes and to add significantly more lighting.
“The shopping area at ‘The Walk’ is a perfect example of how all of Atlantic City’s tourism areas should look,” said Senator Van Drew. “The entire boardwalk and the streets in the area of the casinos should be clean, well-lit, and should have a notable security presence to ensure visitors feel safe.”
The Senator’s proposal follows his participation in the first meeting of the legislative gaming summit, held last week in Atlantic City to examine the casino industry as part of a legislative effort to rejuvenate the state’s gaming, sports and entertainment industries. The panel heard testimony from dozens of stakeholders, including casino executives, business representatives and developers, on how best to move Atlantic City forward.
“We’ve heard a number of ideas that could go a long way toward transforming Atlantic City into a world-wide resort destination, but, the truth is, unless we create an environment in which people feel safe, that’s unlikely to happen,” said Senator Van Drew. “We need to make our city just as visitor-friendly as other top-tier vacation spots, from Las Vegas to Disney World. The most effective way to do that is by boosting our law enforcement presence and creating a cleaner, more well-lit tourism district.”
The Senator’s proposal envisions supporting any additional officers necessary for new State Police patrols with savings from deregulation of the gaming industry and consolidation of regulatory bodies. Casino Reinvestment Development Authority funding, as well as funding from the horse racing subsidy, could be used to finance the infrastructure improvements.
Senator Van Drew said he intends to introduce the legislation later this month.