The referendum to move casinos outside of Atlantic City goes to vote in November but Assemblyman Ralph Caputo is not waiting for the official results as a number of polls have already shown that New Jersey residents are not in favor of developing casinos outside of Atlantic City. Proponents of the referendum will have to wait another two years before they can campaign once again.
However, Caputo is not going to wait for so long as the former casino worker and northern New Jersey Democrat has decided to amend two bills that he introduced in Jan 2016 that will allow video lottery terminals to be hosted by racetracks in New Jersey. The two bills will allow racetracks such as the Monmouth Park in Oceanport and the Meadowlands in East Rutherford to host these video lottery terminals which are similar to slot machines.
Trenton’s Bad Bet, the group that campaigned against the November referendum was not happy with Caputo’s decision. In a statement, Bill Cortese, executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet said “What is shocking is that he has decided to completely ignore the will of the people, which will be expressed on election day as New Jersey voters support or oppose the casino expansion referendum.”
This is not the first that a move to get slot machines into New Jersey racetracks has been made. Back in 2003 when an attempt was made, the state government asked Atlantic City casinos to pay the horseracing industry in the state $30 million each year for not permitting slot machines. Republican Gov. Chris Christie put a stop to those payments in 2011 and redirected those funds to the Atlantic City Alliance, which promoted Atlantic City’s casino industry throughout the country.
The horseracing industry in New Jersey wants to be able to have slot machines as it will enable their racetracks to compete with the racinos in neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. Caputo plans to support the amendment on his two bills by using the 1982 opinion given by the state Attorney General Irwin Kimmelman at that time who stated that video lottery terminals did not require the state constitution to be amended as the current law only permits gambling in Atlantic City.
Republican Gov. Tom Kean banned the state lottery from using video lottery terminals in 1983 and Caputo’s two bills will have to overturn this decision. The current office of the State Attorney’s General stated that it would not comment on conflicting matters that go back to 1982. Caputo went on to say that he will amend his two bills and take out the requirement for a new referendum which will speed up the process and make it easier to get back into the game.