Chris Christie
Chris Christie










New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is thinking of running for President of the United States but will his Atlantic City gambling record stand against him?

There are, of course, many a long shot to be had in the world of gambling. You can wager aliens will make contact with Earth in the next decade, that QPR will win the English Premier League, or that Lucky Caterday, Big Nose Small Face, and, Super Bloomington’s Trousers will all win their races by a full length making your three horse accumulator the ticket to a small fortune. One can even postpone having sex with your partner till after you’ve married them, in a risk that even a Vegas pitboss would probably advise is a bad idea, but this too pales into insignificance with the strange madness of running for President of the United States.

Is Atlantic City An Albatross Around Christie’s Neck?

• Christie could be a candidate for President in 2016

• Staked reputation on Revel deal in Atlantic City

• Re-purposing of casino strategy needed in Atlantic City

The stakes alone are staggering. In the constant need to spend during a campaign the fiscal wager being made is huge, and by no means guarantees you’ll win. For instance the escaped shop window mannequin that is Mitt Romney actually spent over a billion dollars in the 2012 campaign and didn’t become President. Given that each election costs more than the last to fight, whomever takes on the challenge in 2016 is looking at a fiscal risk alone that would put most right-thinking people off even considering it. Luckily, however, we’re talking about politicians, and they’re far more willing to risk the obscurity and debt for a chance to win a seat in the Oval Office, whatever the odds.

Moreover the fiscal risk is made alongside what is perhaps the more insane gamble of wagering your career, personality and entire personal and family history can stand up to the sort of inspection that would make even a customs and immigration agent of the TSA blush for its level of intimacy. The surrender to the process must be complete for you to stand a chance, and yet still they find people willing to gamble that this time is their time, that their smart strategies will win out and that they will be elected President of the United States. Years ahead of the election viable candidates prepare the ground for what will be the gamble of their lives.

Preparing the ground usually involves making yourself as middle of the road as possible whilst not alienating the hardcore base of your own party. This juggling act has been made all the more difficult for each side by the ongoing political polarization of the nation into blue and red states, people, and voters. Republican candidates also need to be mindful that ethnic minorities, traditionally democrat voters, now swing elections in the US, and that as the manifestly hateful Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina said “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

2016 The Election Is Already Underway

Chris Christie therefore has some work to do. Seen as the Republican’s best hope for 2016 the large man from New Jersey has hit the headlines both as the concerned governor only too willing to work with the President to get relief to storm ravaged families, and also as the man whose staff blocked off a bridge to give political opponents (and anyone else who wanted to use it, you know, like the public) a hard time. He retains good levels of support within the Republican party, and is seen as moderate by a public that has grown weary of the hardline Republican denial of reality. He might be larger than life, but Christie is no shrinking violet, and perhaps that’s what they need in 2016.

Unfortunately Chris Christie has an albatross about his neck that might yet sink any hopes of his becoming President before they even get off the ground. Atlantic City. That once bright shining oasis of blackjack tournaments, poker games and roulette wheels on the eastern seaboard is facing ruin and disaster as the economic fall out of surrounding states also liberalizing their versions of US gambling laws create competition where none existed before. There have been four major casino closures this year and that has put an extra 8,000 people out of work just as the seasons swing away from the summer tourist trade and into the lull of autumn and winter.

Whilst the citizens of Atlantic City come to terms with their new reality Governor Christie has to come to terms with what that means for his chances of becoming President. Whilst the economic depression of some towns or cities can be written off as the whims of capitalism and as just another challenge to be faced up to in a modern globalized world, Atlantic City has four hulking great reminders of the situation sat on the beach, empty, closed, and shuttered against the wind. It is one of these monolithic memorials to golden days now fading fast that will be of most concern to Chris Christie. The Revel, because when it opened, he backed it hard.

“The completion of the Revel and its opening,” Said Christie ant an opening ceremony that featured the far less weighty Beyonce, “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.” and at the time, he hoped it was. He gambled it was. He very publicly stated that the $2.4 billion casino was to provide 5,000 permanent jobs and would energize and revitalize the entire city’s economy after the economic slump had already hit the seaside resort harder than most. Two years later the Revel is closed like the Atlantic Club and Showboat before it, with the Trump Plaza not far behind. Christie’s opponents are unlikely to let him ignore the 57-story failure on his record when it comes time to run for real.

To Run Or To Run Away

It is not, however, just the sheer failure of this economic rejuvenation effort that leaves Christie vulnerable in any future political ambitions he might have. The political fall out goes much wider than merely his reputation as a successful get-it-done executive being somewhat tarnished. Conservative elements inside the Republicans already distrust his centralist leanings (despite their evident necessity in modern US politics), dislike gambling as a vice and wonder why the state was involved to such a degree in a private business endeavor. These conservative Republicans hold great sway in all-important Primary seats, and they might just scupper his chances yet.

“I’m certainly not ready to throw in the towel on this. We have a lot of work to do.” said the governor in an attempting to put a brave face on it all, waggling his can-do attitude for all its worth and setting up a bipartisan meeting for Monday to discuss what should be done with the four empty casinos that now litter Atlantic City’s famous Broadwalk. Having boasted about helping to seal the deal that got the biggest of them constructed, it remains to be seen if the big man from New Jersey can seal a deal for its future use. Given his future political prospects depend upon it, he’ll be making as much effort as a noob counting blackjack cards.

The Revel suffered from the economic times, but made things no better for itself by placing the casino on the sixth floor and not allowing people to smoke whilst they gambled. This inhospitable setting lost them much of the local gambling business that casinos require to stay profitable and in the end simply was in no shape to compete with the other casinos in the area. This poor forward planning and imposition of restriction against public desire and the resultant failure should be a lesson Christie looks to as he weighs up the decision of his life, whether to run for President of the United States. Running with the failure of Atlantic City around your neck just might not be possible.

Of course this is US politics and just about anything can, and will happen, between now and that super Tuesday in November 2016. Chris Christie might look like a candidate with possibilities now but in the long run to the White House many better men than he have slipped by the way side for far less than a 57-story slab-sided tomb stone marking the place where their plans for economic prosperity arose and failed. The closure of the George Washington Bridge might not lose him much support, political shenanigans being what they are, but the failure of Atlantic City might well torpedo any chances Christie has of being President in the winter of 2016.