By Desirée Taylor
Could gaming be coming to the Meadowlands? The Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee considered this idea at a meeting at the Meadowlands. Opinions on this issue varied greatly with divisions generally defined by geography. Many North Jersey lawmakers believe gaming in the state shouldn’t be exclusive to just Atlantic City. But a contingency of South Jersey legislators say building a casino in North Jersey would spell doom for Atlantic City, especially at this critical time when the governor’s plan to create a tourism district there is starting to take shape and reap benefits. “Our casinos are one of the largest employers and is the economic engine that supports over 100,000 jobs, powers 1,700 small businesses across every county in the state, and generate 11.8 billion in consumer spending every year, ” said Republican Assemblyman John Amodeo. “To risk these things would be foolish.” But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Paul Sarlo said, “Casino revenue is on a decline, and we’re losing out to our surrounding states. By building one here in the Meadowlands, it will do two things — we will recapture that gaming revenue and we’ll help the horse racing industry which is a billion dollar industry here in the State of New Jersey.”
But this meeting wasn’t just for lawmakers to voice their opinions. Dozens of people were scheduled to testify. Among them were horse breeders and owners, business leaders and other stakeholders. “The real benefit would be the taxpayers,” said Jeff Gural, Chairman of the New Meadowlands Racetrack. “We think a casino here would generate about $350 million in tax revenue for the state. And all 12 casinos combined in Atlantic City don’t even generate 250 million.” But Bob Marshall, from the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce said, “The governor put in motion some things to create a tourism zone in Atlantic City … and there’s new development. Yes, gaming is everywhere … but the focus should be on Atlantic City.”
Meanwhile, in Trenton today, Gov. Chris Christie said this meeting was a waste of time because Senate President Stephen Sweeney would never post legislation that would support a North Jersey casino in the next five years.
It would take a constitutional amendment to build a casino in the Meadowlands. A bill asking voters to consider this change has been introduced in the legislature. But even if lawmakers approve it, it would likely be about two years before a question would be put on a November ballot.