The decision to move the casino industry outside of Atlantic City and set up two new casinos in North Jersey has been fiercely debated and will now be left up to New Jersey voters to decide their preference before the end of this year.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made his views clear on the proposal on March 31st by stating that the move to open two new casinos in North Jersey will be heavily dependent on the future of Atlantic City. Christie believes that voters will not allow casinos to move outside of Atlantic City and has committed to launch a campaign against the new casino expansion plans if New Jersey legislators do not approve the proposal for a state takeover of Atlantic City.

Atlantic City’s economic stability has declined steadily over the last decade and the city has a budget deficit of over $100 million and owes the Borgata casino $150 million. One of the main reasons for the city’s steady decline is due to the collapse of the once thriving casino industry. Back in 2006 the casino industry brought in $5.2 billion in revenue but has experienced a drop of nearly fifty percent in 2016 with revenues touching just $2.56 billion. The competition from neighboring states and Atlantic City’s struggling economy played a major role in this decline and also resulted in four casinos being shutdown in 2014, leaving the city with just eight casinos now.

Gov. Christie believes that the best way forward for Atlantic City and its casino industry is to allow the state to take control over the city government and work out new tax arrangements with Atlantic City casinos. This move has been opposed by the Assembly which is made up largely of Democrats and most notably Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Christie has called for state legislators to put an end to all the drama and work together to prevent Atlantic City from collapsing and ensure the casino expansion in North Jersey turns out to be a success.

Prieto is against a state takeover of Atlantic City as he believes it would allow the state to negate collective bargaining agreements. He does not share Gov. Chris Christie’s view that North Jersey casinos would fail if Atlantic collapses and is not very concerned with Christie’s claims of launching a campaign to stop the two new casinos in North Jersey. Prieto pointed out that if the Governor launches such a campaign it could hurt Atlantic City further because the two new casinos are expected to send $200 million in taxes each year to help Atlantic City.

In a statement, Prieto said “It wouldn’t be his first flip-flop, and he would just be risking hurting Atlantic City by denying it funding it sorely needs from North Jersey gaming to transition into a resort destination.”