On Monday night, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian warned that allowing two casinos to be built in North Jersey will do more harm than good.
During a forum at St. Peter’s University about the statewide referendum that on November 8 will ask New Jersey voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution and expand casino gambling to the northern part of the state, Guardian said, “If you don’t think prostitution and drugs and other minor crimes won’t come along with it, you’re being very foolish,” as reported by The Record. Currently, there are proposals for two casinos, both in East Rutherford, as well in Jersey City; the Meadowlands Racetrack and the American Dream complex. Guardian, a Republican born in Jersey City, said that bringing a casino to either location would cause traffic headaches as well. He said the people may want the revenue that the casinos would bring but they don’t want the extra commute time.
Despite the concerns of some lawmakers that even more damage would be done to the financially struggling Atlantic City by adding the casinos, last week the state Senate overwhelmingly approved the resolution (SCR1/ACR1) that could end the nearly 40-year casino monopoly that has existed in Atlantic City.
At the forum, various officials and stakeholders offered arguments regarding the benefits of adding the casinos as well as the possible pitfalls. Representing Jersey City, Democrat and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, said that Reebok founder Paul Fireman $4.6 billion casino proposal would have “a heavy reliance on mass transit” due to patrons utilizing high-speed ferry from Manhattan, Westchester County and Long Island. While Mark Giannantonio, chief executive of Resorts casino in Atlantic City, countered by saying that adding casinos to North Jersey is a “terrible idea” for New Jersey and that the referendum should be defeated.
One thing that could not be argued was the condition of Atlantic City’s finances. In fact, just before the forum began Guardian announced that from April 8 through May 2 City Hall would be closed. Guardian said the closure, which doesn’t include the city’s fire and police departments, would be prevented if the Assembly follows the state Senate’s lead and approves the city’s agreement with the casinos of Atlantic City. Due to overpayment of taxes in recent years, the casinos are owed tens of millions of dollars. Guardian is siding with Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus, in resisting the demand by Governor Christie and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney that an Atlantic City bailout is predicated on the state’s avoidance of any existing collective bargaining contracts. Guardian said for those three weeks that City Hall is closed, the city’s firefighters and police officers have agreed to work without immediate pay because of the situation with the city’s finances. .