Are 3 New Casinos Coming to NJ?
New Jersey legislators who previously were giving their support to allow two new casinos outside of troubled Atlantic City, have upped the ante and are now seeking for as many as three casinos in the northern part of the state.
According to NJ.com, three Garden State Assembly members from Essex, Bergen, and Hudson Counties announced at a press conference on Monday that they have introduced a constitutional amendment to allow casinos in their three counties. If the amendment is passed by the Assembly, it would still need to be approved by voters to allow the new casinos in their counties.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), who is been fighting for casinos outside of Atlantic City for over six years, explains that the amendment is necessary to stem off competition from neighboring states. "The business has changed," Caputo said. "We've had tremendous competition from our neighboring states... If you don't adapt, you become extinct and you become a dinosaur."
With many casinos closing their doors during 2014, in addition to the tax revenue lost for the state, many jobs for New Jersey residents were lost as well. As Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) puts it, this proposed amendment is all about "Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs-jobs-jobs-jobs-jobs, jobs, jobs."
Many believed Mukherji is right on point with the potential of 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs being created if this amendment is passed by legislature and voters.
While the amendment appears to have vast support, including formerly staunch opponents Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Governor Chris Christie, there are others including from Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-Atlantic) and Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) that believe that this bill may do more harm than good.
"To think somehow that by cannibalizing Atlantic City you're going to help hardworking families here in our state I think is a grave mistake," Brown said. Mazzeo added, "It's disruptive to talk about casinos in North Jersey while South Jersey families are still reeling from having their jobs, health care and stability taken away."
While there does appear to be a north vs. south divide on this issue, Assemblymen in central New Jersey are scratching their heads as to why they are left out of the amendment. State Senators Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset), along with Senators Bob Smith and Linda Greenstein (both D-Middlesex) are going to push to be included.
"We have some of the wealthiest people in the country. We're at the crossroads of interstates," said Bateman. "We want to throw our oar the water and see if we can lobby to get one forward."
While the divide does appear to be regional on this proposed amendment, not everyone from the north feels that three casinos is the right number. Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) argues, "I believe the expansion should be limited to two casinos in North Jersey that are at least 100 miles from Atlantic City so we don't over-saturate the market."