From the Record:
State Senate and Assembly committees each passed resolutions on Thursday designed to have voters statewide determine next fall whether to amend the state constitution to allow two casinos to operate in North Jersey.
But the two measures differ on how much tax revenue from the North Jersey casinos should go to support Atlantic City — a discrepancy that could jeopardize efforts to pass the resolution before the end of the lame-duck session next month in Trenton.
The version that the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved Thursday would send 35 percent of tax revenues from the North Jersey casinos to a new state entity that would use those resources to bring more diverse entertainment and leisure options to the struggling, casino-dependent city. The revised measure that emerged from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee would send 49 percent of the first $150 million in North Jersey casino tax revenues to Atlantic City, then 40 percent, 30 percent, and 20 percent of each subsequent $150 million that the casinos generate.
Additionally, the Assembly resolution would allow for one of the two winning casino bids to have no affiliation with a company that operates an Atlantic City casino. But Stephen Sweeney, the state Senate president who represents a South Jersey district, said it was critical that any North Jersey casino operator have an Atlantic City-based partner — a provision of the Senate measure.
“I want the industry in the north part of the state to be tied to Atlantic City,” Sweeney said Thursday, adding that a patron at a casino in the Meadowlands or in Jersey City should be able, for example, to earn a free room or meal at an Atlantic City counterpart.
Sweeney also said of the higher subsidy for Atlantic City in the Senate measure: “I’m not just going to let Atlantic City fall into the sea after it has provided billions and billions of dollars to the state. It would be easy for me to curry favor with my friends in other parts of the state and say, ‘The hell with them.’ But we are not going to let that happen.”
The referendum would ask voters whether to amend the state constitution, which currently restricts casino gambling to Atlantic City, allowing two casinos to be established in separate counties at least 75 miles from the struggling seaside resort city. Neither version of the resolution spells out where the casinos would be built, but all locations would have to be north of Monmouth and Mercer counties. The most likely locations appear to be the Meadowlands and Jersey City.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, who sponsored the Assembly resolution, has said that the Senate version, with its more generous Atlantic City subsidy, is more likely to be rejected by taxpayers who are aware of the city’s longstanding budget woes and recurring corruption scandals there over the years.