Hearings are scheduled to start tomorrow where lawmakers will discuss the possibility of allowing casinos outside of Atlantic City. Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, chair of the Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he hopes lawmakers will be able to change the state constitution to allow casinos in other areas throughout the state.
Ramos said the hearings that will start tomorrow will serve as a spark to allow gaming outside Atlantic City. “We want to lay down the foundation to have a greater conversation down the road to make it a reality,” he said.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo has a resolution to amend the state constitution, according to Ramos, but he said that won’t be part of the discussion at the hearing tomorrow. He also said ultimately the voters will make the decision, not the legislature.
According to Ramos, the Meadowlands would be an ideal place to have a casino because the infrastructure already exists for such a facility.
Some have said allowing gaming outside Atlantic City will hurt the already struggling area. Ramos said lawmakers fully support Atlantic City, but without having a gambling option outside the city, New Jersey is losing money.
“We have to look at what our neighbors to the north, south, east and west are doing to us right now. They’re really taking us to the woodshed as far as their revenue dollars and gaming is going through the roof and our revenue dollars are stagnating if not declining right now,” Ramos said. “So we definitely want to keep our New Jersey dollars in New Jersey because where they’re growing, it’s New Jersey residents going across the borders to those casinos.”
Having a casino at the Meadowlands could draw people from New Jersey and New York easily. “It’s in a prime location not just to attract New Jersey residents but for residents from the tri-state area as well,” Ramos said. “So we’d be foolhardy not to move forward with this, at least have the discussion about this.”
Ramos said his constituents support bringing gaming outside Atlantic City and have since he first ran for a position in the legislature five years ago.
He doesn’t expect much more than talk from the hearings. “Tomorrow’s just a spark,” Ramos said. “Who controls the casino and who controls the money that goes to the casinos and the percentages that they pay out in taxes, that’s all part of a larger conversation.”
While there has been some blow-back against the idea of expanding gaming in the state, Ramos said it’s worth it to pursue. “Whenever you take up any issue, there’s pros and there’s cons to it,” he said. “But the pros in this situation far outweigh the cons.”