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Lawmakers, business leaders react to North Jersey casino referendum compromise

Legislators and business leaders from both ends of the state are weighing in on Monday’s news that Gov. Chris Christie has brokered a deal with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) that will likely bring a unified measure supporting a voter referendum on casino expansion to a vote in the…Michele Siekerka, CEO and president, New Jersey Business & Industry Association

“New Jersey’s casino gaming industry is negatively impacted by casinos in surrounding states that have been siphoning gambling revenue away from Atlantic City. By allowing a limited number of casinos in other parts of our state, we can better compete for the casino dollars we are now losing to casinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and also provide sorely needed redevelopment funds for Atlantic City.

“The legalized gaming landscape has changed since casinos first opened nearly 40 years ago in Atlantic City. If we don’t act now, our three neighboring states will remain a competitive threat to our state’s casino industry. Moreover, if casino gambling ever comes to New York City, which is a real possibility, it would be a further disaster for the New Jersey gaming industry.”

Jim Kirkos, CEO and president, Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce:

“It is especially gratifying to hear that the governor has proposed a compromise to allow supporters in the Senate and Assembly to come together, allowing casino gaming in northern New Jersey.

“The compromise suggested, which requires a minimum of $1 billion in investment by any prospective casino operator, begins to resolve the issue of assuring New Jersey maximizes its economic advancement from expanded casino gaming. It validates the Meadowlands Chamber’s perspective that providing Atlantic City with sufficient resources for its recovery was a matter of creating a robust destination offering in the north, where the Meadowlands Sports Complex represents the premier opportunity to address the metropolitan area’s demand for destination assets built on gaming revenues.

“We believe the compromise invites additional dialogue about standards for the selection of sites, operators and development programs — all of which will lead to support from the voters as the referendum reaches the ballot.”

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield):

“There is no agreement and no amount of money being sent back to Atlantic City that will make up for 10,000 hard-working, middle-class people being put out of work by the expansion of casino gaming to North Jersey. I stand opposed to this attempt to hijack our region’s key industry all in the name of adding a few more million in tax revenue to the state’s coffers. Any bill, regardless of what house it originates from, is wrong for the state of New Jersey, wrong for Atlantic City and wrong for the hard-working people I represent. I continue to stand staunchly opposed to the expansion of gaming outside of Atlantic City.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus):

“I’m very happy that we have reached a compromise agreement going into the next session: That it’ll bring world-class casinos to the north. That that’s been one of the concerns of mine. That it’ll be a first-class entertainment and that way we’ll be able to generate revenues that will take care of Atlantic City and the rest of the state of New Jersey. And it meets the expectations of what I’ve been looking all along is a compromise to make sure that the right type of casinos are built in the north to maximize the benefit for the state of New Jersey.”

State Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Sparta) (following passage of first proposal by Sweeney):

“Expanding gaming to North Jersey will allow for significant net economic value to be added for New Jersey through increased revenue, job creation and tourism generation. Establishing new casinos in North Jersey will help recapture gaming revenue that is being lost to neighboring states and will capitalize on the unique features of this part of the state that already draw thousands of visitors each year. This expansion and the revenues raised will also provide a boost to the state’s equine industry and will help with the needed diversification of Atlantic City so it will not be dependent on extraordinary state aid.”

Andrew George

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