Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian bailed on a hearing with the Assembly Gaming, Tourism and the Arts committee this morning, where he was supposed to give testimony on the embattled seaside pleasure town’s plummeting gaming industry.
Committee members heaved sighs of disappointment after it was learned the Republican mayor, the first openly gay mayor in the city’s history, would not make an appearance. Guardian was expected to talk about some of the challenges that Atlantic City’s gaming industry is facing, including closures of at least four of its 12 casinos, resulting in the loss of 8,000 jobs; the possibly of a state-led emergency management plan; expanding gaming in North Jersey; and the impact these challenges are having on the city’s local economy.
“This would have been a vital opportunity to engage with the mayor on those subjects,” said the committee chair, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28).
Committee members said they hope they can reschedule the mayor for future testimony.
Following the hearing, Caputo said he didn’t know why Guardian didn’t show, but called it a “lost opportunity.”
“I don’t know the reason why he didn’t show,” Caputo said, ” but it doesn’t look good .. I know there’s a lot of challenges he faces at this point but I think this was important for him to have this kind of interface with the committee, because we’re going to be party of any effort to try and assist him.”
The committee was also expected to grill Guardian on his opinion of the legislature’s recent A.C. summits, convened by Gov. Chris Christie, as well as recent legislation sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) that would offer state assistance to city government and schools, as well as the casino industry and its workers.