he institute, which will be located in the college’s Carnegie Library Center on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, will expand on the mission of Stockton’s existing Institute for Gaming Management and Center on Hospitality and Tourism Research.
“The institute represents Stockton’s ongoing partnership with the hospitality and gaming industry in the economic and social vitality of our area,” Executive Director Israel Posner said during Monday night’s dedication ceremony at the college’s newly acquired Seaview Resort. “It will provide students and faculty the opportunity to study the issues facing the industry and to relate their findings to the public, but also prepare students interested in careers in these industries with important knowledge and know-how they’ll need to be successful ... and, in doing so, hopefully they’ll be able to see the L.I.G.H.T. — which is also the play on words of sorts that we’re using for the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.”
Posner said the institute was dedicated in the prominent area attorney’s honor because of the significant personal and financial investment he made in bringing the institute to Atlantic City.
While the monetary sum of Levenson’s donation was not revealed, Levenson said he decided to make the donation because he was tired of New Jersey’s legislators, media and industry executives looking to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ gaming institute for information and guidance.
“Atlantic City was far too content to accept its role as Las Vegas’s little brother, with Las Vegas as the center of the gaming universe around which we just orbited like a little satellite,” Levenson said. “Atlantic City is the nation’s second largest gaming market, but until now it never had a voice of its own. Now it will.”
The ceremony’s keynote speaker — Frank J. Fahrenkopf, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association — said the institute will help Atlantic City turn around its struggling gaming industry.
“Atlantic City is facing a crisis. The entire industry was hit with what I call a ‘double whammy’ — a drop in discretionary spending and liquidity when the world collapsed economically in 2008. But Atlantic City was also hit with a third whammy: bad luck,” Fahrenkopf said, adding the economic collapse happened just as the resort began welcoming significant investors for upscale retail locations and restaurants.
Fahrenkopf also said that a recent independent poll of industry insiders showed that nearly half of those experts believed that it would take another three to four years for the industry to rebound. “And Atlantic City will be facing tremendous challenges moving forward, especially in the new competitors it will have in Delaware and Pennsylvania. These are challenges that will have to be met with strong leadership, and tough decisions will have to be made,” said Fahrenkopf, who called Governor Chris Christie’s planned private-public partnership with the city a “good start.”
The state Legislature is currently considering proposals that would scale back casino regulation and establish a CRDA-controlled tourism district in Atlantic City that would include the Boardwalk, Sen. Frank S. Farley State Marina and other areas.
Misspending by the resort’s government was the focus of a state Comptrollers Office report released in January, and a Superior Court judge in October cited Atlantic City — which has a us$ 9.5 million operating deficit — for a “gross failure” in complying with state budget laws.
Fahrenkopf said the new institute would help Atlantic City get back on track by cultivating talented leaders, providing research and creating new ideas.
Levenson, a Margate resident and CEO of Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law, said the dedication represented “a culmination and a beginning” that he was just happy to attend.
“Normally, honors like these are given after someone dies,” Levenson joked. “I’m just happy to be a living, breathing part of this.”