Underneath the gleaming new tower on the north end of the boardwalk, Gov. Chris Christie (R) placed a bet that this down-on-its-luck city was about to turn around. Revel, a massive $2.4 billion casino willed to completion by Christie, was supposed to provide 5,000 “permanent” jobs and fuel a revitalization to the entire city.
“The completion of Revel and its opening is a turning point for Atlantic City and a clear sign that people once again have faith in the city’s ability to come back,” Christie said before the 2012 grand opening, which featured a performance by megastar Beyoncé.
Two years later, the Revel is shuttered — wiping out thousands of jobs amid an economic implosion of the gambling industry here. Rather than serve as a shining example of Christie’s economic stewardship, Revel now stands as a 57-story example of failure in a city that has bedeviled New Jersey governors for decades.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the media, just like the GOP establishment was in love with Chris Christie and couldn’t get enough of him, including touting him as a possible candidate for president in 2016. Not only have those times changed, it’s increasingly looking as though some of it went to Christie’s head, causing him to over play his hand on the national stage, just as he did here in Atlantic City.
This particular governor, however, is on the brink of deciding whether to run for president and is already struggling with a political scandal over the closure of the George Washington Bridge. His handling of the Revel case creates more problems for his preferred image as a can-do executive who gets results, even if it means working with Democrats.
The casino’s collapse also leaves the tough-talking governor open to criticism from social conservatives in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina, who oppose gambling as a vice and who already distrusted Christie’s centrist leanings. Libertarians, meanwhile, question the role of a state government in attempting to prop up such a risky private endeavor.