State Senate President Stephen Sweeney Says North Jersey Casino Would Help Atlantic City
New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said on Tuesday that a casino in North Jersey would help Atlantic City–not hurt it. Sweeney believes a land-based casino in the North Jersey area is “inevitable”. He also believes a vote to determine whether such a gaming venue would be built might happen as early as November 2015.
The Senate president believes a system could be set up which would help New Jersey’s famous resort city. The state’s top legislator believes that imaginative tax incentives might produce the desired effect, if New Jersey lawmakers approach the discussion rationally. He also believes such discussions are a necessity.
No Building at Atlantic City’s Expense
Sweeney told The Press of Atlantic City, “This conversation is going to be had because it has to be had. But it won’t be had at Atlantic City’s expense, he said. If anyone thinks that I’m not committed to Atlantic City, they’re crazy. We can’t ignore that competition is going to be in New York shortly.”
Sweeney’s idea seems to be to redirect a certain percentage of the tax revenues on the North Jersey casino. This money would used for the benefit of Atlantic City. In other words, Atlantic City’s leaders would be paid to accept the reality of a casino near the Hudson River.
New York Gaming Expansion
New York currently has 17 different gaming companies and real estate developers bidding on 4 potential casino gaming licenses. Four new state-of-the-art casinos will be built in New York state, with the details to be announced in fall of 2014. One of those casinos might well be only 50 miles from New York City. If so, fewer New Yorker than ever will be driving to Atlantic City. Under such circumstances, New Jersey needs to build a casino even closer to New York City, says Sweeney.
Taxing North Jersey for Atlantic City’s Benefit
In elaborating his plan, the Senate president added, “Right now we tax casinos at 8.5% percent. Maybe we set a new tax rate for a casino in the north and a portion of that, that’s significant enough to help Atlantic City, comes to Atlantic City.” When asked, Sweeney said he envisions more than $1 billion coming to Atlantic City over the first ten years a North Jersey casino was in operation.”
He added that the money could be used to “repurpose” the casinos in Atlantic City. Other legitimate uses of the tax revenues would be “to improve infrastraucture, to make Atlantic City what we know it can be. That’s what we’re talking about here.”
Jim Whelan Agrees with Sweeney
Of course, Stephen Sweeney has to convince a compelling number of his fellow politicians to go along with such a plan. State Senator Jim Whelan, who has been a vocal supporter of the North Jersey project, agrees.
Whelan told reporters, “If all you’re talking about is throwing some slot machines into the Meadowlands, that’s one conversation. If you’re talking about the most fabulous casino in the history of mankind, that’s another conversation. Let’s make sure that there’s enough money coming to Atlantic City to offset any impacts that Atlantic City may experience.”
Chris Brown Says the Talk Is Premature
State Assemblyman Chris Brown sees the talk of the North Jersey casino as premature. He also doesn’t see the casino in the Meadowlands as a foregone conclusion. He points out that the 5-year window Chris Christie suggested in February 2011 was meant to sustain Atlantic City itself–not act as a bridge to a new era.
Brown says the idea of maintaining the monopoly should be discussed, not totally discounted. He believes money might be best used to build up alternative revenues streams in Atlantic City–not build a lavish resort in the north of the state.
Brown added, “We’re in the process of transitioning from a gaming resort to a destination resort. The numbers are all moving in that direction. The five years wasn’t five years and we’re done. It was five years and we’ll re-evaluate.“
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