N.J. Selects Former Attorney General to Restructure Atlantic City Debt

Former U.S. senator and N.J. attorney general Jeffrey S. Chiesa was appointed on Monday to oversee Atlantic City's financial recovery as the state begins to implement the city's takeover.

An attorney at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, Chiesa, a Republican who served as N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's chief counsel and the state's 59th attorney general from 2012 to 2013, was hired by Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham to help tackle Atlantic City's more than $100 million structural deficit, according to a statement released by the N.J. Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

"I am committed to improving essential government and community services for the people of Atlantic City," Chiesa said in a statement. "I will listen to the people and work hand in hand with local stakeholders to create solutions that will prevent waste and relieve generations of taxpayers from the burden of long-term debt. We will put Atlantic City back on the path to fiscal stability."

Chiesa's immediate plans include negotiating payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements with Atlantic City casinos, which are struggling to stay afloat due to declining gambling revenue, the DCA statement said.

Atlantic City once was the gambling hub of the East Coast after casinos were legalized in New Jersey in 1976. However, in recent years, Pennsylvania and New York legalized gambling, increasing competition and attributing to the closure of five of Atlantic City's 12 casinos since 2014.

The closing of certain of Atlantic City casinos, including Showboat and Revel, resulted in a municipal tax revenue fall of 70% to $6 billion from $21 billion since 2010, putting the city in about $500 million worth of debt. In 2015, the city had a budget shortfall of $101 million and a $47 million deficit in its school district.

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