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Egg Harbor Township vs. St. Joseph first half of high school basketball game at Hammonton Middle School Friday Jan 14, 2022. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

NJ casinos, tracks won $4.7B in 2021; in-person winnings lag

ATLANTIC CITY — Casino gambling, sports betting and online wagering in New Jersey brought in over $4.7 billion in 2021, but the casinos’ core business — in-person gambling — did slightly poorer than it did before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Figures released Friday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show the nine casinos won a total of $2.55 billion last year from gamblers on their premises.

That’s $1 billion better than they did in 2020, when the initial outbreak of COVID-19 forced casinos to close for 3½ months, and to operate under capacity restrictions even after they reopened.

“These results are a remarkable achievement for Atlantic City in light of the lingering pandemic,” said James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

But it was less than the $2.68 billion the casinos won from in-person gamblers in 2019, the pre-pandemic comparison most of the city’s casino executives say is more accurate.

“Atlantic City’s casino industry, like the region’s gaming hospitality and tourism businesses overall, has proven resilient, but still vulnerable to fluctuations in COVID-19 infection rates and caseloads,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City gambling industry.

“Even as other sectors of the gaming business, internet gaming especially, show significant and steady revenue growth, coronavirus surges and waves like the Delta and Omicron variants continue to prove an obstacle to sustained recovery for Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casino operations,” she said.

Money from New Jersey’s top-in-the-nation sports betting market and its robust internet gambling industries have provided new revenue streams.

But casino executives point out that money from those sources must be shared with third parties including sports books and technology partners, and is not solely for the casinos to keep.

Internet gambling brought in $1.3 billion, and sports betting provided nearly $816 million after winning bets and other expenses were paid.

New Jersey took in nearly $1.23 billion in sports bets in December, the fourth straight month it surpassed the $1 billion mark. For the year, the casinos and three horse tracks that accept sports bets handled nearly $11 billion worth of wagers on professional and collegiate sports. (Money the tracks won on horse racing is not included in these totals.)

The casinos and tracks kept 7.1% of the total amount bet as sports betting winnings, in line with national industry averages.

Union leader expected to replace Tolson on CRDA board

ATLANTIC CITY — Daniel Cosner, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 351, is set to take Richard Tolson’s spot on the board of directors of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, both men have confirmed.

Including all forms of gambling revenue, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was once again Atlantic City’s top-performing casino, winning $1.1 billion from gamblers in 2021, twice as much as its nearest competitor, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, which won $511 million.

Tropicana Atlantic City was third with $355 million; followed by Ocean Casino Resort at $342 million; Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City at $267 million; Caesars Atlantic City at $242 million; Resorts Casino Hotel at $168 million, Golden Nugget Atlantic City at $148 million, and Bally’s Atlantic City at $144 million.

Among internet-only entities, Resorts Digital won $450 million; Golden Nugget Online Gaming won nearly $380 million, and Caesars Interactive NJ won $112 million.

Joe Lupo, Hard Rock’s Atlantic City president, said his casino’s in-person gambling revenue compared to 2019 rose from $324 million to $431 million. Ocean was the only other Atlantic City casino to increase its in-person revenue compared to 2019, going from $215 million to $306 million.

He said while the city continues to deal with the pandemic and labor market challenges, “We feel very fortunate to move into 2022 with a great team, dynamic brand and support from ownership.”

Taxes on the various forms of gambling revenue provided nearly a half billion dollars to New Jersey’s coffers in 2021.

Quilts honoring Black lives killed in U.S. displayed in Atlantic City museum

ATLANTIC CITY — More and more people who work on racial justice know about the African American Museum of Southern New Jersey.

When the museum opened in 2002, founder and President Ralph E. Hunter Sr. reached out to various entities to acquire exhibits to display.

Now, as the museum enters its 20th year, organizations are reaching out to Hunter to display their projects.

The latest outreach was done by Patricia Stoneroad, an Oregon-based volunteer with the Stitch Their Names Memorial Project, which was set to kick off with a reception Friday and will be on display through Feb. 27 at the museum inside the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University on Fairmount Avenue.

“We learned about the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey and the Noyes Arts Garage from an article that was published on the mission of the museum and on Ralph Hunter, who started the museum,” Stoneroad said.

The museum expands on the Black Lives Matter theme with an exhibit pairing the crafts of needlework and quilting with the art of painting.

The two quilts on loan to the museum bring attention to Black lives cut short as a result of hate crimes, police violence and racism.

Portraits of 116 people were stitched onto the quilts to recognize the effect of their absence on the communities affected by the violence of their deaths, memorialize their lives and honor their loved ones.

When Hunter touched the quilts for the first time in December, his hands started shaking.

“I could feel their being,” Hunter said of the deceased. “They could be my kids, my grandkids. ... It was extremely touching to feel the energy.”

Nearly 100 people worked to stitch the portraits of those who have died. Each participant took a different approach. Some portraits are headshots, some full-body. They include different backdrops and details to inform viewers about the victims’ lives.

One quilt is 46 inches wide by 61 inches long and has 48 portraits. The other quilt is 73.5 inches wide by 73.5 inches long and contains 68 portraits.

Remembering Freedom Summer in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — It’s been close to 60 years since Fannie Lou Hamer tried and failed to register 17 people to vote at the Indianola, Mississippi Courthouse on Aug. 31, 1962.

The quilts have been in South Carolina and Jackson, Mississippi, and will be headed to Luther College in Iowa after being displayed in Atlantic City. A website — — contains biographies of each victim.

At the museum, the quilts will be paired with 10 paintings by Melvin Irons, an art/Afro American studies major who graduated from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1976.

During the 1970s, Irons lived near MOVE, a Philadelphia-based Black liberation organization.

In August 1978, a shootout erupted between Philadelphia police and MOVE in the Powelton Village area of West Philadelphia. Philadelphia police Officer James J. Ramp was fatally shot.

Nine MOVE members, known as the MOVE 9, were convicted of third-degree murder in the death of Ramp. They were sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. MOVE denied responsibility for Ramp’s death.

The Pennsylvania State Police dropped two bombs in 1985 on a relocated MOVE house on Osage Avenue. Eleven people were killed and 60 homes were destroyed in the West Philadelphia neighborhood, but Irons created his artwork during the 1970s based on the earlier conflict between MOVE and the police.

“It was all about the injustice of the whole thing,” Irons, now 79, said of his paintings. “If you feel something, you want to get it out.”

During the same year as the original MOVE-police clash, witnesses said Philadelphia police shot and killed Winston C.X. Hood, 20, while he was handcuffed on the sidewalk.

“It’s happening all over,” Irons said of the recent police shootings of African Americans.

Irons’ paintings were previously displayed in Atlantic County at least once, in 2007 at the African American Heritage Museum’s location in the Newtonville section of Buena Vista Township.

Irons donated most of his paintings to the museum five years ago, Hunter said. This is the first time they have been exhibited since then.

One of Irons’ paintings shows six police officers all with the face of Frank Rizzo, the late Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner, whom many Black Philadelphians remember for his legacy of intolerance and use of violence during and after the 1960s civil rights movement.

“They (MOVE) were really, really fortunate to have this young artist live down the street from them,” Hunter said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

COVID testing website launching; CDC encourages N95 masks

WASHINGTON — The federal website where Americans can request free COVID-19 tests will begin accepting orders on Wednesday as the White House looks to address nationwide shortages, but supplies will be limited to just four free tests per home.

Starting on Jan. 19, the website will provide tests at no cost, including no shipping fee, the White House announced Friday.

As he faced criticism for low inventory and long lines for testing, President Joe Biden announced last month that the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.

But Americans shouldn’t expect a rapid turn-around on the orders and they will have to plan ahead and request the tests well before they meet federal guidelines for when to use a test.

The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering” through the U.S. Postal Service, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at-home testing when experiencing COVID-19 systems including fever, cough, sore throat, respiratory symptoms and muscle aches, five days after a potential COVID-19 exposure, or as part of test-to-stay protocols in schools and workplaces.

“Certainly if you’re going to gather with family, if you’re going to a gathering where people are immunocompromised or where they’re elderly or where you have people who might be unvaccinated or poorly protected from a vaccine that might be an opportunity you want to test,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, on Wednesday.

Officials emphasized that the federal website is just one way for people to procure COVID-19 tests. Starting on Saturday, private insurance companies will be required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing Americans to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month.

The White House said the four-test limit on website orders will be applied to each residential address and will apply to the first tranche of 500 million tests. It estimates that the cost of purchasing and distributing the first block of tests at $4 billion.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials on Friday encouraged more Americans to wear the kind of N95 or KN95 masks used by health care workers to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Those kinds of masks are considered better at filtering the air. But they were in short supply previously, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials had said they should be prioritized for health care workers.

In updated guidance posted late Friday afternoon, CDC officials removed concerns related to supply shortages and more clearly said that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection.

However, agency officials noted some masks are harder to tolerate than others, and urged people to choose good-fitting masks that they will wear consistently.

“Our main message continues to be that any mask is better than no mask,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement.

The CDC has evolved its mask guidance throughout the pandemic.

In its last update, in September, CDC officials became more encouraging of disposable N95 masks, saying they could be used in certain situations if supplies were available. Examples included being near a lot of people for extended periods of time on a train, bus or airplane; taking care of someone in poor health; or being more susceptible to severe illness.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that his administration was planning to make “high-quality masks,” including N95s, available for free. He said more details were coming next week. The federal government has a stockpile of more than 750 million N95 masks, the White House said.

The latest CDC guidance notes that there is a special category of “surgical N95” masks that are specially designed for protection against blood splashes and other operating room hazards. Those are not generally available for sale to the public and should continue to be reserved for health care workers, the agency said.

Stafford Township native Ryan Truex, driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet, was second fastest in practice Friday for Saturday’s Xfinity race in Brooklyn, Michigan. Qualifying is at 10 a.m. on Fox Sports 1 with the race at 1:30 p.m. on Fox.

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Environmental group raises concern that offshore wind plans are 'too much, too fast'

With plans for more and more wind turbines off New Jersey’s coastline, the advocacy group Clean Ocean Action believes things to be moving too quickly and at far too large a scale. This week, the organization raised concerns about the potential impact on wildlife, especially on dolphins and whales.

“That’s it in a nutshell: Too much, too fast. And too vast,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

The organization is known for the beach cleanups it has organized since 1985. But the purpose of those efforts has been primarily to gather information to fight plastic pollution in the oceans, she said in an interview Friday.

The efforts include fighting climate change, she said.

That’s the stated motivation for the planned creation of multiple offshore wind farms, which both critics and supporters describe as the start of a new industry in New Jersey.

The recent Clean Ocean Action statement comes in response to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s recent announcement that it would auction off 480,000 acres off New York and New Jersey, described as the New York Bight.

Interior to hold auction for offshore wind power in NY, NJ

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday it will hold its first offshore wind auction next month, offering nearly 500,000 acres off the coast of New York and New Jersey for wind energy projects that could produce enough electricity to power nearly 2 million homes.

The Feb. 23 auction is of the largest area offered for wind energy at one time, according to the BOEM, with the expectation that a wind farm in the area could power 2 million homes.

The first Ocean Wind project, the furthest along of New Jersey’s planned offshore wind energy projects, is expected to generate enough power from 99 wind turbines off Cape May and Atlantic counties to power a half-million homes, and Ocean Wind 2 is already in the works, rounding that number up to a million homes powered by wind.

Also in New Jersey, Atlantic Shores is set to add hundreds more turbines, and Empire Wind plans hundreds more off New York and New Jersey.

The Ocean Wind proposal has met opposition from some community leaders, with groups like Protect Our Coast NJ and local officials questioning the plan’s impact on coastal communities.

Gov. Phil Murphy has been pushing hard to convert New Jersey to renewable energy, with offshore wind dominating that vision. He has cited the impact of climate change, and the potential for new jobs and economic development with the new industry. Along with the Biden administration, he has argued that climate change presents an existential threat.

Supporters of wind energy say the shore communities will take the hardest hits from rising seas and increasingly powerful storms.

“The Biden-Harris administration has made tackling the climate crisis a centerpiece of our agenda, and offshore wind opportunities like the New York Bight present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight climate change and create good-paying, union jobs in the United States,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in announcing the latest auction of offshore acreage. “We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development. We must seize this moment — and we must do it together.”

Clean Ocean Action is not opposed to offshore wind, Zipf said. But the group is concerned with the scale and scope of the proposed projects, describing it as the industrialization of the coastline.

Instead, she suggested starting with “pilot scale” projects to see the real impact on marine life. That would still be smaller than the first phase of Ocean Wind, a project of Danish company Ørsted and PSEG. Instead, she cited a far-smaller proposal from Fisherman’s Energy to build six turbines off Atlantic City.

“We supported Fisherman’s Energy as a good pilot-scale project,” Zipf said. The organization of commercial fishing companies worked for more than a decade on the proposal.

Most people now understand the dangers of climate change, she said, and renewable energy has to be part of the future. But not at the expense of the ocean, she argued. She described the ocean as a vital buffer to climate change, absorbing much of the change in temperature and a significant amount of carbon.

She instead pointed to energy conservation and smaller-scale solutions, including increasing the amount of land-based green energy options such as rooftop solar panels.

The buildout along the ocean will have other impacts as well, she said, including bringing more development and population to the coastline.

Marine life is the main concern.

“In a short window, all these proposals are coming very fast. A lot of things are being fast tracked,” she said. “Whales have been migrating through this area for millennia. They haven’t seen a metal forest that they have to navigate around.”

Migratory patterns of birds were taken into consideration in the design of the offshore wind farms, Zipf said, but she is not convinced enough consideration was given to fish and marine mammals.

In addition to the proposed wind energy projects in New Jersey, there are proposals for offshore turbines from New England to Virginia.

Local officials and community groups have raised concerns with the impact on whales and other marine mammals, as well as the visual impact of the turbines and its potential impact on tourism. There have also been concerns about the potential impact on the fishing industry.

For Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, protection of marine life is a major part of why offshore wind is needed.

“The greatest threat to marine life is climate change. We are seeing the temperatures of our oceans rise while marine ecosystems are collapsing,” he said Friday.

He said his group and others want to make sure wind power development is done responsively and carefully. But he said there have not been issues with offshore wind elsewhere.

The League of Conservation Voters joined with other New Jersey environmental organizations late last year to advocate for wind energy, forming the New Jersey Wind Works campaign. It was aimed at countering some of the opposition voices that have been increasingly active at local meetings and on social media.

In previous interviews, Potosnak said much of the opposition stems from fear that the turbines will ruin people’s views. Opposition groups have pointed out that New Jersey Wind Works accepted funding from Ørsted.

“It’s not something you would ask any other group,” he said. “We get funding from a lot of places.”

A windy war of words in Ocean City

OCEAN CITY — With some in favor, and more opposed, local residents turned out in force Saturday morning for a public meeting on Ocean Wind 1, the furthest along of three offshore wind projects in the works for the New Jersey coast.

Most comes from supporters, he said.

“It’s not surprising that they bring it up. It sounds like a boogeyman,” he said.

He maintained that the funding did not influence the organization’s positions.

“The research and science doesn’t support these negative impacts,” he said. “We all care deeply about the ocean. That’s why we think we need to move quickly on wind power.”

As far as Zipf and Clean Ocean Action are concerned, there is just not enough data yet, considering the scale of the proposals along the Eastern Seaboard. She described it as a far different ecosystem than the North Sea, where a significant amount of offshore wind development has taken place.