On Friday, business, labor, and political leaders in Bergan County said that efforts to bring a casino to the Meadowlands Racetrack should not be detracted by the ongoing debate regarding Atlantic City’s future.
In a joint statement released by Meadowlands Regional Chamber President Jim Kirkos and Rick Sabato, Bergen County Building and Trade Councils’ president, the two stressed that thousands of permanent jobs and construction jobs would be created by the opening of a casino at an “ideal location such as the Meadowlands Sports Complex.” And that, “While we want to see Atlantic City recover and its gaming sector succeed, we can’t lose focus or momentum on our long-fought efforts,” as reported by NorthJersey.com.
Governor Chris Christie said recently, that he will reverse his support of a November referendum asking approval from voters for two casino licenses in northern New Jersey if the Legislature doesn’t send an Atlantic City takeover, bill backed by him, to his desk. Seen as a candidate for governor in 2017, on Wednesday, Democrat and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop did an apparent about-face in his previous support for the referendum after visiting Atlantic City the same day. He said he was concerned over whether the benefits of bringing a casino to Jersey City would be outweighed by negatives that accompany a casino project, such as increased crime and broken promises of economic development.
The sentiments of Kirkos and Sabato were endorsed by Senator Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, adding that the chances of the referendum passing may be harmed by the extensive media attention regarding Atlantic City’s woes. Sarlo said a section of the referendum that pledges as much as $200 million of annual casino tax revenues from North Jersey being redirected toward the non-gambling economic development of Atlantic City could turn voters off. Sarlo said if the referendum ends up being opposed by Fulop, he could “bet the House” that the Meadowlands would be the site of a one North Jersey casino, if not both.
There has been talk of a $1 billion casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack, as well as a proposal for a $4.6 billion Jersey City luxury casino complex and spa near Liberty National Golf Club. However, according to the terms of the referendum, bids must be controlled by an Atlantic City casino operator and neither of the would-be bidders is.
The severe budget crisis in Atlantic City has led to a bailout bill from state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester and Christie on one side and one from Republican Atlantic Mayor Don Guardian and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus on the other. Prieto and Guardian oppose provisions contained in the bill that would allow the state to do away with existing collective bargaining agreements with employees of Atlantic City.