SEATTLE, Washington - The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (or CRDA, pronounced "creedah") is a New Jersey state agency entrusted with skimming some money from Atlantic City casinos (in addition to various other gaming-only taxes and fees) and investing in various infrastructure and development projects in New Jersey. They are currently in a bit of a dust-up with Atlantic City officials over the sale of Bader Field, a former airport (in fact, the first place in the United States to be called an "airport") that is considered a primo casino development location.
Penn National Gaming has offered Atlantic City $800 million (including fat $50 million payments in each of the first two years) so that they could buy the land and divide it so that up to four casinos could open there. Atlantic City is having its first tax reappraisal on residents in 20 years and wants to use some of that money to soften the blow.
CRDA head Thomas Carver blasted this plan with language a bit spicier than you usually hear from a bureaucrat. He said that the Penn National offer was a "scam", that the two large upfront payments were "tantamount to a bribe", and that Atlantic City would end up with shitty casinos instead of the lavish "megacasinos" he envisions:
"It will take the city back years. It will almost preclude us from reaching the next level in terms of our evolution into an international resort destination. You will end up possibly, at best, with four grind joints out there, based on how they want to divide the land up."
Carver believes that it is the job of CRDA, not the city, to oversee a bidding process for the land, and at least partly blames the dispute on "long-held suspicions by city officials that the CRDA is trying to usurp the city's authority." Well, yes, that exactly what the CRDA is doing, usurping the city's authority. People don't trust Atlantic City to handle its own affairs for good reasons, including Michael Matthews, a childhood friend of my father who became mayor in 1982 and within three years was serving a 15 year jail term for extortion.
And for those not versed in gaming lingo, a "grind joint" is a casino that operates by catering to a large volume of small-stakes players, instead of high-rollers. Perhaps Mr Carver hasn't noticed the 800+ junket and charter buses that arrive daily in Atlantic City, ferrying people directly to the casinos from poor neighborhoods in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Sounds like grinding to me.