The chief executive officer of Borgata owner MGM Resorts International said he expects Atlantic City to stop hemorrhaging casinos and begin traveling on the road to recovery.
"Atlantic City's darker days are behind it," MGM CEO Jim Murren said at a National Press Club luncheon Friday. "We're going to see gradual improvement."
Atlantic City has faced bankruptcy as five casinos shut down. New Jersey took over city operations earlier this month, gaining the power to break union contracts, hire and fire workers, and sell off public assets. The state acted under a rescue law passed in May after rejecting city's five-year recovery plan.
The Casino Control Commission unanimously approved the deal Wednesday.
MGM wouldn't have bought out Boyd Gaming's share of the Borgata had the company not expected improvements in the seaside resort, Murren said. The Borgata is Atlantic City's top-performing casino.
"It's heartbreaking what has happened in Atlantic City," Murren said. "I would not have just invested additionally another $800 million into Atlantic City if I did not believe that it could move forward."
He said the company owns plenty of acreage around the Borgata that could be developed. "We're going to grow our business," he said.
State officials have been pushing for sports betting as another way to help Atlantic City. The horse racing industry has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an August federal appeals court ruling that a 2014 law signed by Gov. Chris Christie violated a 1992 federal ban on sports wagering.
The casino industry, including MGM, is on board.
Murren said things have changed since sports betting was banned in all states but Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. For example, he said, Las Vegas is getting a National Hockey League team.
"People love to bet on sports," Murren said. "Let's regulate and give the American public what it wants."
Though President-elect Donald Trump owned several casinos, there will so much other business pending before the new Congress that legalized sports betting will be on the backburner, said Jason Galanes, a spokesman for Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.).
LoBiondo, whose district includes Atlantic City, has introduced legislation to legalized sports betting. So has Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.).
"With an ambitious agenda already being outlined, Congressman LoBiondo is realistic that sports betting is not going to be addressed in the short-term," Galanes said.