Casinos in Camden, Newark? Sweeney Says Maybe
Politicians in northern New Jersey have long pushed for a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford.
But New Jersey's senate president says if gambling is ever expanded beyond Atlantic City, the Meadowlands is no sure bet.
Steve Sweeney told the Press of Atlantic City the state could opt for casinos in distressed cities like Camden, Newark or Jersey City instead of at a racetrack.
He told the newspaper's editorial board on Thursday that each of those cities could benefit from a casino.
For years, the assumption has been that if New Jersey ever expanded gambling beyond Atlantic City, racetracks at the Meadowlands, where the Super Bowl was just held, or at Monmouth Park in Oceanport would be the most likely sites.
Sweeney also said the state-imposed tourism district in Atlantic City needs to be given the full five years that Gov. Chris Christie promised before considering gambling elsewhere in the state.
Christie said in December that the five years began in Feb. 2011.
"The day he signed the bill, all we heard was we have to move gaming outside Atlantic City," Sweeney said.
That kind of talk only discourages people and businesses from investing in the struggling resort, he said.
"We need to be touting the progress, about how much nicer it is," Sweeney said.
State statistics show gross gambling revenue has fallen from more than $3.3 billion in 2011 to less than $2.9 billion in 2013. But Sweeney said nongambling revenue — income from restaurants, shopping and clubs — has grown as a percentage of citywide revenue.
"Those tax dollars count too," he said.
State statistics show revenue from New Jersey's five nongambling taxes that the casinos pay decreased by 2.4 percent in the 12 months that ended in September 2013, the newspaper reported.
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