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Atlantic City Casino Tunnel Opening as Debate Continues

26 July 2001

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey –– As reported by the Associated Press: "After five years, nine homes demolished and a whole lot of litigating, the $330 million Atlantic City tunnel project opens to traffic this week.

"But the decision to build it will likely remain controversial long after casino-bound cars and buses begin streaming through it Friday.

"Demanded by a casino mogul who has since cashed in his chips, the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector prompted the development of the Borgata casino, a $1 billion project now under construction in the marina district.

"…But critics call it an ill-advised `road to nowhere' that wreaked havoc on a stable black neighborhood while providing a taxpayer-financed handout to Mirage Resorts Inc.

"…The state agreed to build the 2.2-mile road-and-tunnel link at the request of former Mirage Resorts chairman Stephen A. Wynn.

"Wynn, a popular casino operator who left Atlantic City in a huff because of strict state regulation, demanded the improved access as a condition of his plan to build a $750 million casino on a piece of marina district land called the `H-tract,' where a municipal landfill once sat.

"Twice as expensive to build as the Hoover Dam, the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector was to be paid for by the state ($220 million) and Mirage ($110 million).

"….Casino owner Donald J. Trump and then-Hilton Hotels Corp. executive vice president Arthur Goldberg denounced the state's underwriting of the project as `corporate welfare' that unfairly favored an out-of-state company over casino companies that had already invested in Atlantic City.

"…But the promise of new casinos and the support of then Gov. Christie Whitman, powerful state Sen. William L. Gormley and Mayor James Whelan helped keep the project on track.

"…`It's a project that guarantees the safety of our residents and visitors,' said Mayor Philip Guenther. `It will bring thousands of jobs and a billion-dollar investment. Thousands of people will benefit from having development on the H-tract.'

"But Wynn, ironically, isn't one of them.

"Last June, Mirage Resorts was bought out by MGM Grand Inc. in a $6.7 billion merger. Wynn's original proposal, meanwhile, is still on hold.

"To some in Atlantic City, having the casino mogul deal himself out before the roadway opened was the final insult…"

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