NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
SENATOR WILLIAM GORMLEY
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Welcome back, and I hope you are now in energized and ready to resume our panel discussions.
Our social impact testimony panel consists of New Jersey State Senator William Gormley. Welcome.
SENATOR GORMLEY: Welcome.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: James Kennedy, Executive Director of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Terrence O'Connor, Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Addiction Services at the Department of Health and Senior Services, Captain Richard Andrews of the Atlantic City Police Department, and Stephen Simurda. Close?
MR. SIMURDA: Simurda.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Simurda, Associate Director for the United States Gambling Research Institute.
Each presenter will have 15 minutes, including the time for questions, so you have the option, I mean, if you want to take up your whole 15 minutes with presentation, but in order to get you all in I would really ask you to maybe try to talk for five to ten minutes, leave time for some questions.
SENATOR GORMLEY: Then we have the balance of the time to question you.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: No, no, no, see, that's not how it works.
SENATOR GORMLEY: I'm sorry.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: And, the lights and the cue cards will assist you with this time, right over there.
Senator Gormley, thank you.
SENATOR GORMLEY: Okay, thank you very much, and, obviously, welcome, as I know you've been welcomed by many other people. There's been a tremendous outpouring of the community.
First of all, I get the opportunity to do a little follow up. A couple of individuals have asked me to follow up on prior testimony. First of all, for the record, there was a question as to the success of the new convention center, how many meetings its bringing in. And, today, nearly 300 meetings, conventions and trade shows have been scheduled in the new convention center through the year 2007. This will bring an estimated 4 million additional visitors, using 2 million room nights, and they will spend in excess of $887 million in the greater Atlantic City area.
Apparently, someone earlier today had called in to question whether the new convention center will make a difference in the economy or be helpful to competitive local restaurants. Well, it will be, it is a success and is working very well.
And then also for the record that I'll submit is a letter from the Department of Human Services of the state of New Jersey, in which it goes over approximately $35 million which is made available through our casino fund, which you are now uniquely aware of. I'm going to try to avoid everything you've been told ten times, okay, but the Department of Human Services, Bill Waldman, the Commissioner, just wanted to be on record to cite how Human Services has had that financial assistance from the casino revenue fund for some of their programs, and I wanted to enter that in the record.
Now, what I'd like to do is, everybody has their story, so I will now give my pre-gambling story. It is 1975, I was in Okinawa, I was in the Marine Corps, and I received a phone call in March of 1975, don't come home. There is nothing going on. A friend of the family called and said Atlantic City, which I was born and raised in, basically, there was not much of a future. The Marine Corps would be a far better career.
Now, I'm very proud of being a prior Marine, but I opted to come home, and I was fortunate to come home at a time when there was dynamic change coming to this region.
What I'd like to do, you've heard a lot, and I hope, I'm going to try to avoid being repetitive, I would like to outline for you how we have approached problems. Yes, there is money because of casino gaming, but what we have tried to do, Republicans, and Democrats, business leaders, members of labor, people involved in Social Service issues, is structure legislation over the years that does have a social impact.
It would be very simple in any state to pass a piece of legislation, designate where the casino revenues would go, and declare success. What we have sought to do in New Jersey, is as we passed this legislation with, as you well know from the Attorney General, with a high level of integrity, of which we are very proud, we simultaneously set up funds for infrastructure that is tied to the creation of jobs, and tied to making sure that this program of casino gaming will make a long-term difference.
Some of the things that we have done, there is a charge on hotel rooms in Atlantic City, that went to pay for this building. When the Casino Revenue Bill was originally passed -- the casino law was originally passed, the intent was to bring back the convention industry into Atlantic City. That was the era when they had built the old convention center in the '20s and '30s that people like to fondly recall what was a great era for the city in terms of visitor traffic. So, one of the things we had to do was create a fund to build this facility. We were able to do that through a charge on rooms.
And then, there was a need to develop a gateway to the city, and we have a charge on parking to do that, and the reason that we did that, as you have with many urban areas, is that people will say, oh, boy, will you drive into town, and this isn't unique to Atlantic City, Atlantic City's problems are not special to the city, they are symptomatic of predicaments or problems that occur in every major urban setting. Maybe our population isn't as large as New York, or Philadelphia, or Chicago, but the divisiveness that we face in the town from time to time, the social problems that we face in the town from time to time, a dysfunctional setting for families in an urban area is unfortunately the percentage of problems is higher, and that is not unique to Atlantic City.
So, we set these infrastructure funds up to build a convention center, rebuild the corridor into Atlantic City, and also a casino reinvestment fund, and Jim Kennedy is here and he will go over the number of housing projects that we have built as a result of that.
So, it would be easy to say we got a lot of money from gambling. But, there was a thoughtful process that came out of it, that we approached both job creation, long-term infrastructure and money to address certain social problems in the city.
It is easy for individuals to say, as they drive through the city, and thank you for going on the tour yesterday of the city, there is a building over there that's still a slum. You are right. We wish that building was torn down and a new home existed in that site, but if anybody gives an opportunity to Atlantic City on a per capita basis, they will see that, not just in terms of gaming programs, but in terms of redevelopment and money for birth of the social infrastructure, we have made a difference.
Admittedly, we haven't done everything, but at the same time if you compare this to any other experiment of its nature I think we've made a lot of progress.
So, we passed all these bills for all this money, but let's talk about some statistics that I think you might find heartening. Our Boy Scout ratio, and this is important, every town should have a Boy Scout ratio. As a matter of fact, we have Scott FErguson here from the United Way, and I had to ask him three times this number and it came up to approximately 37,000 people, how do you have 1,000 Boy Scouts? We didn't have any Boy Scout program in Atlantic City before casino gaming, and now as a result of the efforts of Scott, the United Way and its contributions to the Boy Scouts, we have interaction and many Boy Scout programs throughout the city.
This is demonstrative of what government can't do, but if government sets the plate with viable corporate partners who want to help, it shows that if you have a community that is concerned they can make a difference.
We have a United Way in this city that has worked with the Boy Scouts, taken advantage of these economic opportunities, and, therefore, there's a viable program.
We then have other programs that have been set up by our community college. John May, the President of the community college, is here today, and we have a site, an adjunct campus, if you will, a few blocks from where we are right now. Now, when you usually think of the traditional definition of college, you think of a degree, credits, but, unfortunately, especially in an urban setting, there are certain people who don't have the life skills, or don't have the capability, unfortunately, even to begin to matriculate to receive college credits.
What we have on a yearly basis is 6,500 individuals who take advantage of our local campus in Atlantic City to learn 13 -- go through 13 assorted programs, dealing from many of them are computer skills, so that they can go through these programs and they don't have to get credits because, quite frankly, they are not ready to engage in regular college courses, but we reach out for these individuals, the community college does it, they work in partnership with Atlantic County and the Job Partner Trainingship Act, which comes down from the federal level.
Grants are given and those individuals are provided the training. Well, why this is important, because I hear all so often about lofty ideas from Washington about what we are going to do to put people back to work. These are programs designed, coming from the local level, that would never have happened without casino gaming, designed to put people to work. That addresses a real social need.
And then, we have a program called the Job Readiness Program. I think we've all seen in urban settings from time to time, you can have all the jobs in the world, but there are certain life skills that individuals have that might seem very simple to us, such as showing up for work, that, quite frankly, they don't have, and it's not their fault in many cases. They might have come from dysfunctional settings and not had that opportunity.
And, we have now set up what we call the Job Readiness Program. It's almost a boot camp put on by the local community college, so that in a very intense ten-day program we focus on individuals to try to give them the skills so that they will be able to hold down that job. So, we can cite job numbers, but we've gone further.
And then, there's the story of Resorts International. I never heard of this before, and maybe some other corporations have done it but I don't know, they sent their employees door to door in their ward, knocking on doors, looking for people who needed jobs.
Now, maybe that happens somewhere else in the country, but I don't know. They knocked on doors and said, do you work, would you like an opportunity to work, and then they set up an intensive one-to-one monitoring program with those individuals to encourage them to work.
These are some, whether it be United Way, whether it be Atlantic County, whether it be our community college, these opportunities would not have existed without casino gaming. It did happen, and the corporate character of those casinos merged with government are trying to take that extra step to go beyond the 32nd sound bytes and the simplistic comments that you hear about welfare reform from either side of the political aisle, and that's what it's meant to Atlantic City, and that has made a real difference.
And, I've noticed when I've looked at some of the resumes, the real interest that I see in families, and I think we all have that great concern, and we are very proud in Atlantic County that we have received a state grant that has been targeted to Atlantic City and it's called the Children and Family Initiative, and we know all those indices, and we've talked about the problems in an urban setting, whether it be teenage pregnancy, whether it be juvenile delinquency, and we have targeted with two family centers in our schools in Atlantic City to work with those people in an urban setting to try to, on a one- to-one basis, which is, that's the way you have to do this, on a one-to-one basis try to provide that social service safety net for those individuals.
I cite these programs because they are all examples of that extra step, not mandated by government, but a group of individuals realizing the social responsibility, because we can't write a law for everything, but casinos have provided that opportunity for that to work.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today. I appreciate the opportunity to present those examples, and I'll look forward to your questions.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Thank you, Senator Gormley.
We have time for one or two, if there are any.
Thank you very much, appreciate your being here today.