NJ officials say Atlantic City making progress

Associated Press Modified: September 20, 2012 at 9:31 am •  Published: September 20, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey officials say a wide-ranging effort to improve Atlantic City is starting to pay off, from new private investment in non-casino attractions to a $20 million advertising campaign that's beginning to change negative perceptions about the seaside gambling resort.

Speakers at an Assembly panel hearing Wednesday said the state's efforts to improve public safety, cleanliness and economic development in Atlantic City are bearing fruit more than a year after Gov. Chris Christie's administration adopted a plan to rescue the struggling resort.

"Our key audience — fun seekers — is starting to associate Atlantic City with more amenities," said Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer with the Atlantic City Alliance, the casino-funded marketing arm of the resort. Three months after the "Do AC" advertising campaign was launched, research showed audiences in New York and Baltimore had better perceptions of Atlantic City, viewing it as "less run-down" and more appealing as a vacation site, he said.

John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, cited new private investment like the $35 million Margaritaville development at Resorts Casino Hotel, and a new Bass Pro Shops outlet approved Tuesday for the city's shopping district. The agency recently opened a new parking garage in the mall area, spent several million dollars on equipment for a light and sound show at Boardwalk Hall, and plans to lease vacant lots for community arts projects.

Tourism district employees, in their almost-visible-from-Mars neon yellow shirts and jackets, can be found throughout the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue areas, picking up garbage, cleaning sidewalks and giving directions to tourists.

And the region's golf courses announced a new joint marketing effort on Wednesday, aimed at competing with other, better-known golf markets.

The success or failure of these efforts will go a long way toward determining whether New Jersey eventually allows casino gambling in other parts of the state. Christie says the reforms need a few years to succeed.

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