BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Sen. Lesniak: North Jersey Casinos are Last Hope for Atlantic City

While the future of Atlantic City remains unclear, a ban on sports betting in the state, for now, remains in effect. The Christie administration has filed an appeal to the federal court ruling that upheld the ban. The appeals process could take six months. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak told NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill that casinos in North Jersey are the last hope for Atlantic City.

A lot of people look at the sports betting issue as a slam dunk in favor of New Jersey but the courts do not look at it that way. Lesniak said that he was not expecting much from the court because Judge Michael Shipp has always ruled against the issue. He said when he went to the third circuit, one of the three judges asked for the legislation to be tweaked, which Lesniak did and Christie signed. He said that he expects a different ruling once the issue is before the third circuit.

The process could take six months and Lesniak said that there is nothing that he can do to expedite the court process. He said that this is needed desperately because Atlantic City is losing money every day, casinos are closing, people are out of work, the racetracks are hurting and thousands of jobs are at stake. “Sports betting will bring fannies back into the seats. People like to be there where the action is. It’ll be a big help,” he said.

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo is calling for a casino in Newark. Lesniak said that he is in favor of any casino in North Jersey that could generate the most jobs, revenues and spin-off revenues that can be reinvested in Atlantic City. He said that he hasn’t seen anyone put up billions of dollars for a casino in Newark as someone has in Jersey City, but they would compete and the best site that would produce the most money for New Jersey and Atlantic City will win.

People are skeptical about money begin shared from North Jersey casinos with the people in Atlantic City. Hill said that he spoke to Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian recently who told him, “Don’t kill us. Don’t open up another casino in North Jersey.” Lesniak responded that Guardian is wrong.

“This is the only hope for Atlantic City. Atlantic City has to be transformed to a resort destination beyond casinos and that means investing money. There’s no money that’s going to be invested in Atlantic City except for some of the revenues. The billions of dollars of revenues that are going out of the state now anyway, across our borders, let’s bring those back and reinvest it in Atlantic City. The mayor is totally wrong and unfortunately he can’t see the forest for the trees,” said Lesniak.

On another note, Lesniak raised the issue of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s prisons. Lesniak said that he is trying to restrict solitary confinement to when it is only absolutely necessary for safety purposes because it causes very serious mental illnesses, makes reentry into society more difficult, makes it more likely for prisoners to come out of prison more hardened and more likely to commit a crime. He said that is not a good situation.

When asked what type of support Lesniak may have with the bill, he said that he is going to find out since he just introduced it. He said that the faith-based community is very supportive of the measure because they see it as torture. He said that if solitary confinement is not earned, not required, not necessary and if it makes a criminal more hardened, that is not good and does not help reduce crime.

Lesniak said that solitary confinement should not be for juveniles because there is no reason for a juvenile to be put in solitary confinement. He said there are other ways to discipline and protect juveniles from themselves and others.

“I don’t know exactly how it [solitary confinement] is used in New Jersey, but I do know that it’s used punitively in other states and that we do not have enough guidelines and criteria and regulations to restrict its use,” said Lesniak.