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On July 15th, in Ocean City, the Last Dance baseball tournament continues with a match between ACIT and Millville.


Casinos_tourism
Eldorado, Caesars merger approved by Casino Control Commission

ATLANTIC CITY — State gaming regulators gave the final approval Friday for a $17.3 billion merger of Eldorado Resorts Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Corp., clearing the way for a deal that will create the country’s largest casino operator.

The Casino Control Commission voted 2-0 in favor of the proposal, which for the time being gives one gaming company control of four of Atlantic City’s nine casinos.

Over the course of two days, the commission heard testimony about the merger’s implications for Atlantic City, with a particular focus on the financial stability of the proposed company and the potential for market concentration.

Uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus’ effect on gaming and tourism, the economic impacts of restricted casino capacity and a timetable for market recovery also factored into the recommendations for approval and the final decision.

Recognizing the enormity of the merger and the added complexity due to COVID-19, Commissioner Alisa Cooper said the “stakes could not be any higher.”

“It bears to reason that there was significant concern regarding the financial stability, given the magnitude of the impact on the two companies and given unanticipated costs,” Cooper said, adding, “It is very important that the regulatory authorities continue to monitor new Caesars’ financial condition to ensure its ongoing viability as it navigates through these most challenging times.”

Commission Chair James Plousis said there were “legitimate concerns” the new casino company “would be in a position to harm fair competition in the Atlantic City market” if left unchecked, but he felt confident in the 39 conditions imposed with the approval.

“I am satisfied that (Eldorado and Caesars) has met its burden of establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, that it meets each qualification standard under the Casino Control Act,” Plousis said before moving to approve.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement’s recommended condition to remove all existing deed restrictions on former Caesars assets in Atlantic City — specifically Showboat Hotel Atlantic City, The Claridge hotel and the former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel — was excluded from the final approval at Plousis’ request.

The DGE’s expert witness, Martin Perry, head of the economics department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, strongly suggested removing the deed restrictions that prohibit casino gaming at those properties as a means to foster competition and development in Atlantic City.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort both petitioned Thursday to be heard during the proceedings in opposition to removing the deed restrictions. Although the petitions were denied, Plousis said Friday (following an unexplained 90-minute delay to the start of the hearing) he had “significant reservations” about lifting the covenants and later added that doing so would “greatly complicate this matter.”

Further discussion among all stakeholders in respect to removing the deed restrictions was warranted, he said.

Presently, Eldorado operates Tropicana Atlantic City, while Caesars controls Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. Bally’s was recently sold for $25 million to Rhode Island-based Twin River Worldwide Holdings. The sale is pending approval.

The merged gaming company will keep the iconic Caesars name — it will be known as Caesars Entertainment Inc. — and customer loyalty program with Eldorado senior management overseeing operations.

The DGE expressed reservations about the merger, both in a pre-hearing report to the commission and in final remarks delivered Thursday.

“In reflecting on the testimony presented, the division’s concerns, as they relate to the overall uncertainty associated with the transaction, remain,” Deputy Attorney General Tracy Richardson said on behalf of the division. “As we indicated in our report, the financial success of the merger will be determined, in many respects, by events and circumstances that are beyond the control of Eldorado and cannot accurately be predicted at this time.”

Noting a significant lack of investment in the current stock of Caesars properties, the division strongly pushed for the creation of a $400 million capital investment trust to be used to upgrade the new company’s Atlantic City casinos. The $400 million will be allocated to Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana over the next three years.

Borgata to reopen July 26

ATLANTIC CITY — Almost three weeks after eight of the resort’s casinos reopened to the public, the market leader is ready to join the welcome-back party.

If the Bally’s sale falls through, an additional $125 million will be placed in the account.

“We understand that we acquire the positives and negatives of Caesars,” said Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg. “And we know that Atlantic City and New Jersey have had some difficulties with a lack of investment from Caesars, chiefly in the past, and we understand why the conditions are there. We are absolutely committed to agreeing to the requirement.”

The commission approved the creation of the capital expenditures account Friday and appointed John J. Farmer, former state attorney general, to serve as trustee.

Additionally, Eldorado executives testified that 5% of annual net revenue would be reinvested in the Atlantic City properties.

Bob McDevitt, president of Unite Here Local 54, the labor union representing more than 10,000 Atlantic City casino employees, said the organization believes the merger “will have a positive impact on the Atlantic City market.”

“The sale of Bally’s will allow Twin River to invest heavily on a property that has been starved of resources for a decade,” he said Friday. “Eldorado’s commitment to further invest substantial resources on the remaining properties will strengthen Atlantic City’s position as the leader of East Coast gaming.”

GALLERY: Atlantic City casinos reopen after COVID-19 shutdown

Highschool
Absegami reviewing name change from Braves

At Absegami High School sporting events, especially football games, the last line of the national anthem has turned into a tradition.

The crowd joins together and, with pride and enthusiasm for the school, loudly sings “home of the Braves.”

Football players hold up their helmets, tomahawk logo emblazoned on them, during that line, and there is cheering afterward, a tremendous display of spirit and support for each other as a team and a school — for the Absegami Braves.

But that tradition is in danger as schools and professional teams review mascots that might be deemed offensive.

And Absegami could be next.

Should Absegami change its team name to something other than the Braves?

“We are reviewing it,” Absegami athletic director Steve Fortis said.

The Absegami logo is a Native American head with a headdress decked with black and white features. The indigenous man has a gold earring and a braid in his hair, which touches the shoulder.

“There has been some community input. We have actually been looking at it for quite some time. Probably a few months now,” Fortis said.

From professional sports down to the high school level, programs are reviewing or removing logos, mascots and team names that could be offensive to a particular racial group.

These actions come after George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody May 25. A white officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Video of the incident went viral and caused nationwide protests over racial injustice.

The Washington, D.C., NFL franchise announced earlier this week it was retiring its team name — the Redskins — and logo, which ended years of lengthy discussions and pleas to ownership to rid its usage of the derogatory slur against Native Americans.

Howell High School in Monmouth County recently changed its logo. Known as the Rebels for decades, the logo was a confederate soldier with white hair and a gray uniform.

The new logo now resembles an Revolutionary War soldier, with the soldier’s face turned down and wearing a tricorn hat with the letter “H” on it that obstructs his forehead and eyes.

There are many other programs — professional and high school — with offensive names that are also reviewing next steps.

Absegami coaches could not comment on the issue. But the coaches received a letter in the winter that the school was looking at a potential change.

Recent events only increased discussions, Fortis said.

“Occasionally, this has been brought up to us, and I think it’s something we have to examine,” he said. “Even before all this stuff happened with the George Floyd thing, it was something that was on our radar. So it’s a matter of time, I think.”

Buena Regional School District Superintendent David Cappuccio Jr. and athletic director Dave Albertson declined to comment.

Buena’s team name is the Chiefs, and its logo is a Native American head with an indigenous warbonnet with blue and yellow feathers.

“At this time, I have no comment to provide about the topic,” Cappuccio Jr. wrote in an email to The Press of Atlantic City.

Some music groups with Confederate connotations, such as Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks, are changing their names. NASCAR banned the use of the Confederate flag last month. The Pentagon on Friday said it would ban displays of the Confederate flag on military installations. Teams and leagues are reviewing other ways to ease racial unrest across the nation.

Some changes are overdue, but others come with a loss of tradition.

The Atlanta Braves of the MLB are famous for their tomahawk chop, in which fans move their arms up and down to celebrate a home run or a solid inning. Some wonder whether that tradition would end if the team changed its name.

The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL are named after Black Hawk, a chief and leader of the Sac and Fox Nation in the Midwest in the 1800s. He is considered to be an inspiration to Native Americans.

And with Absegami, “the home of the Braves” would no longer be heard at sporting events when the national anthem is played.

But the team name and logo remain the same ... for now.

“There’s two sides to it — the tradition of it and the time for something new,” Fortis said. “I think we need to get more input from people in the community first.”

GALLERY: Absegami High School 2020 graduation

Absegami High School is discussing whether to continue using its Braves logo.


Miami University in Ohio changed its team name from the Redskins to the Redhawks in 1997.


The Cleveland Indians retired their logo in 2018.


Crime
Cumberland County officials rethinking new jail, looking at community center instead

BRIDGETON — Two Cumberland County freeholders said Friday the board is reconsidering a $65 million project to build a new county jail, citing a devastated local economy and a low inmate population, both attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But another freeholder says scrapping the plan for the new jail is “the dumbest idea of the century,” while other opponents say it puts inmates and correctional police officers at risk.

Freeholder Director Joseph Derella and Deputy Director Darlene Barber said in a statement the board is thinking of putting a community center in the spot previously slated for the new jail, near South Woods State Prison on South Burlington Road.

Derella acknowledged the current jail is “obsolete” and must be replaced, adding officials are looking at using spaces outside the county to house inmates and building a small holding facility for those awaiting transport.

“COVID-19 has devastated our economy, and the resultant loss of tax revenues requires us to carefully re-evaluate the need for large capital projects at this time, particularly if there are adequate alternatives that are less costly to the taxpayers,” Derella said.

Freeholder Jack Surrency, a Democrat, called on Derella to “hold on.”

“The county has approved financing, selected a contractor, broke ground, begun construction on a new, state-of-the-art county jail and now, all of a sudden, Freeholder Derella wants to scrap the project,” Surrency said.

The new jail was scheduled to open this year — after more than two years of planning and construction — holding up to 398 inmates. Officials planned to demolish the current jail, adjacent to the courthouse on West Broad Street, once work was complete.

The footings and foundation on part of the building have been completed, county spokeswoman Jody Hirata said. In addition, a suspension notice was provided by the Cumberland County Improvement Authority to the general contractor this week.

The plans had called for the CCIA to own the facility, while the county would run the operations.

The number of inmates at the jail has been decreasing, Hirata said, providing data that shows the average population was 310 in 2019 and the inmate count was 232 as of Thursday.

While the trend may appear temporary, “the freeholder board believes it is prudent to assess the extent to which the Attorney General’s COVID-19 inmate release programs will accelerate the trend away from pretrial detention and incarceration for nonviolent offenses,” Derella said.

Victor Bermudez, president of PBA 231, the local that represents officers at the jail, said Derella’s suggestion “that a multimillion-dollar capitol project could easily be switched like a Halloween Spirit store is ambiguous as well as misleading.”

Bermudez, who was previously on paid suspension pending termination from the facility after officials alleged he violated an inmate’s health privacy rights in April, is currently considered “removed from office,” according to his attorney, Arthur J. Murray.

His firing was effective July 1 after allegedly getting involved in a Paterson mayoral campaign while transporting an inmate, but his attorneys have said they plan to appeal.

“We wholeheartedly believe that community enrichment is something that Cumberland County has needed for quite some time, but it is disheartening that the same leadership that has been in place for many, many years will finally do so by possibly laying off a law enforcement agency which employs over 200, possibly keeping a selected few and placing logistic restraints on the incarcerated with those connected to them,” Bermudez said.

Stuart Alterman, the attorney who represents the local, said the announcement puts the jobs and livelihoods of the people who work in the jail at risk, as well as negative impacts on inmates.

Officials are considering what to use the new space for, with Derella saying it’s “an opportunity to shift our focus toward community development, including the expansion of educational, recreational and cultural opportunities.”

“We envision this site being used for a community center promoting the freedom to learn, play and enrich our community,” Derella said. “If the events of the last few months have taught us anything, it has taught us that we must invest in our people, particularly our young people, to ensure that we have a just and fair society that incarcerates as few people as possible.”

Surrency argued the lack of recreation space in the county and the jail are two separate issues that need separate solutions.

“We have an obsolete jail that needs a solution; we have one under construction,” Surrency said. “We also have a lack of recreation in the county; we need a separate solution that focuses more on funding programs and less on bricks and mortar. I’ve spent the last three years saying this very same thing.”

He noted there would be significant transportation challenges for youth to get to the proposed facility, arguing public transportation is a significant issue in the county.

“You don’t inspire young people by locating a community center right next to a state prison,” Surrency said.

GALLERY: Groundbreaking of new jail in Cumberland County


Arkansas State University replaced its Runnin’ Joe logo in 1993 and officially retired its athletic nickname and mascot Indians in 2008.


Politics
Atlantic County Board of Elections deals with another Postal Service glitch

{child_flags:featured}{child_flags:breaking}Postal glitch adds ballots in Atlantic

{child_byline}MICHELLE BRUNETTI POST

Staff Writer

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MAYS LANDING — The Atlantic County Board of Elections voted Friday night to accept 37 vote-by-mail ballots the U.S. Postal Service said it received by primary day July 7 but mistakenly postmarked July 8.

The board handled the issue at its meeting to review signature problems on a last batch of vote-by-mail ballots, and to begin counting about 6,000 provisional paper ballots filled out by those who went to the polls on Election Day.

As of Thursday in Atlantic County 41,241 vote-by-mail ballots had been counted of about 45,000 cast, said board Chair Lynn Caterson. The board had not begun counting provisionals by 7 p.m.

In the contested Atlantic City Democratic primary for mayor, incumbent Marty Small Sr. has about 64% of the vote, while challenger Pamela Thomas-Fields has about 31% and Jimmy Whitehead about 5%.

Under state rules, ballots needed to be postmarked on or before July 7 to count, so the board had to get an opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office to consider accepting the 37 ballots they voted Friday.

The Attorney General’s Office said the board could use its discretion, Caterson said. If it believed the ballots had been delivered to the Postal Service on time, it could accept them.

“I feel those ballots should be counted for the election,” said Democratic Board Secretary John Mooney. “I don’t believe it’s the fault of the voter. The Postal Service has had a lot of rocky roads in this election.”

“What’s mind-boggling is they were all interspersed with ballots postmarked July 7,” said Republican Commissioner Mary Jo Couts.

On July 8, the board had picked up several trays from the Mays Landing post office containing hundreds of ballots, Caterson said. All but 37 were postmarked July 7.

Those postmarked July 8 were put aside as ineligible for acceptance, she said.

“We didn’t know at that time” that there was a problem, Caterson said.

It wasn’t until a letter arrived Monday from Mays Landing Postmaster Dwayne Holmes that the board realized those ballots probably were incorrectly postmarked.

“On the morning of July 8, 2020, the Postal Service’s Eastern and Northeast Areas became aware of a number of ballots located at Postal Service delivery units for the July 7th New Jersey primary election that did not have postmarks,” Holmes wrote. “These ballots were postmarked at the delivery units with a July 8, 2020, date and were subsequently delivered to election officials on July 8.

“Based on the Postal Service’s operational processes, we believe ballots located at a delivery unit on the morning of July 8, and delivered later that same day, would have been received by the Postal Service on or before July 7, 2020.”

Caterson said she has written a letter to Holmes asking for more information on how widespread the problem was, where the unmarked ballots came from and other details, but has received no response.

Holmes could not be reached Friday night.

There were also problems in June with vote-by-mail ballots filled out by voters being returned to them, rather than delivered to the Board of Elections. Couts was one of the voters who got her ballot back.

That mix-up was due to Postal Service staff feeding them into scanners improperly and reading the voters’ address rather than the board’s, according to Assistant County Clerk Mike Sommers.

The board on Friday night expected to count Atlantic City provisional ballots first, since there is a contested mayoral primary there.

It did not expect to count the provisional ballots from Hamilton Township, where there is a tightly contested Republican primary for Township Committee. The processing of Hamilton Township ballots was held up by problems with the Statewide Voter Registration System, Caterson said.

Superintendent of Elections Maureen Bugdon collects all provisional ballots, and her staff checks to be sure they have been cast by properly registered voters, and that the voter hasn’t also cast a vote-by-mail ballot. But her office relies on the SVRS, which has crashed and had various problems throughout the primary process, election officials have said.

In Cape May County, Clerk Rita Fulginiti said all 20,360 vote-by-mail ballots have been counted and added to the tally on the county website. Turnout in the county for the election was 28%, high for a primary.

The Board of Elections in Cape May County has scheduled the counting of about 2,500 provisional ballots for July 22, Fulginiti said.

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The Washington Redskins recently retired their logo and team name.


The Chicago Blackhawks do not have any plans to change their logo.


St. John’s University changed its logo from Redmen to Red Storm in 1994.