January 27, 2016 / 12:50 AM / in 2 years

Factbox: Atlantic City: the good and bad for a city at a crossroads

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Reuters) - Atlantic City, New Jersey’s distressed gambling hub, is at a crossroads. Angry local officials said that with more time and state help, seeds planted over the last couple of years will start to bear fruit. State politicians, however, say those same local officials have not gone far enough with the turnaround plan and the city should be taken over.

The city has huge challenges but also positive developments. Here, the good and the bad. For the full story, click

THE GOOD:

*Reduced city staffing by 25 percent to 946 in 2015. School district reduced budget by $20 million and 200 employees.

*With increased state aid, 2015 budget closed a $101 million deficit without new property tax hikes after two years of steep increases. City budget cut $14 million in 2015. Additional $16 million cuts expected in 2016.

*Crime dropped 9.3 percent in 2015 through November, compared to the same period the year before. Federal prosecutors, working with county, state and local cooperation, also disabled a major heroin dealing gang.

*Under new police chief, Henry White, civilian complaints against officers fell 82 percent since 2013 to 45 in 2015.

*New projects include the Playground, a retail and entertainment complex by Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, who also bought the former Showboat casino earlier this month. The Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City opened.

*Hotel bookings up 37 percent and convention events 40 percent higher in 2015.

THE BAD:

*The city and surrounding areas had a higher foreclosure rate than all other U.S. metropolitan areas in 2015. Poverty rate is 34 percent, more than triple the state rate, and median household income is $29,200 versus nearly $72,000 statewide.

*Casino revenues declined 7.8 percent in 2015, excluding Internet gaming. The number of casino bus passengers traveling to the city fell 25.5 percent last year through November, and the annual total is down about 65 percent since 2010.

*Flooding remains a problem. Routine rainfalls still cause travel disruptions within the city.

*State pushing to expand gambling beyond Atlantic City to two new high-end casinos closer to neighboring New York City. More casinos planned in New York State and Pennsylvania will increase competition.

*All four Atlantic City casinos shuttered in 2014 remain closed, including the Revel Casino Hotel, the city’s newest, which never turned a profit.

*Nearly $392 million total budget deficits through 2020 when taking into account about $190 million of unbonded debt. Those liabilities consist mostly of casino property tax appeals as well as $37 million of delayed pension and healthcare payments to the state.

SOURCES: RealtyTrac; Municipal Market Analytics; Emergency Manager’s January report; Mayor’s State of the City January speech; Atlantic City Police Department; U.S. Census; New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reporting data.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Bernard Orr

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