Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) bill to expand casino gaming into North Jersey passed the Senate Monday afternoon 33 to 6, with only a few senators voting against.
Even with the great outpouring of support, many of Sweeney’s allies had reservations despite their ‘yes’ vote.
Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) co-sponsored the bill that proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature “to permit by law establishment and operation of casinos in certain counties, PolitickerNJ reported.
According to Senator Shirley Turner (D-15), Sweeney’s bill doesn’t do anything to improve New Jersey casinos’ existing tax rates, which she calls too low to compete with revenues states like Pennsylvania, PolitickerNJ said.
The Keystone state has a 50 percent tax rate on casinos and New Jersey wouldn’t have any hope of lowering property taxes unless new casinos pay their freight, Turner says.
Gov. Chris Christie confirmed the Statehouse deal for a North Jersey casino that lawmakers say would enable a $5 billion investment and create 12,000 jobs.
“Jobs for whom,” Turner wonders, adding that many of those who built the casinos didn’t hail from the Atlantic City area, some weren’t even from New Jersey.”
Mayor Steven Fulop dug at Sweeney, citing his association with the presidential hopeful.
“The last time Steve Sweeney took this exact approach of forcing legislation upon residents, it was on behalf of Chris Christie furthering the failed pension reform that hurt tens of thousands of working families across New Jersey,” Fulop says.
“Sweeney is doing the exact same thing for which he will again apologize for if he continues to take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach.”
According to Fulop, Atlantic City operators wouldn’t build first-rate casinos in North Jersey, though Sweeney says the opposite.
Fulop even challenged Sweeney to a public television debate, PolitickerNJ said.
The Jersey City mayor backs a version of the North Jersey casino bill supported by Prieto, who Sweeney says doesn’t have the votes that Sweeney commands.
An online petition started by the former head of Civic JC, Aaron Morrill, is picking up steam as it sends Fulop a clear message to reject plans for a Jersey City casino.
“Research has shown that casinos have a negative impact on local property values and derive a disproportionate amount of revenue from vulnerable, often elderly, problem gamblers,” it says. “Our elected officials should embrace sustainable, socially responsible economic development and unambiguously reject any plan to build a casino in our city.”
Sweeney’s spokesman says the Senate President “doesn’t have the time to engage in manufactured theatrics with Mr. Fulop, who once again is attempting to insert himself into the legislative process.”
“We want real investment in the State of New Jersey,” Sweeney says, as the sparring Senate resembled a three-ring circus over Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), and Sweeney’s competing bills and which official would create the top entertainment destination.
According to Sweeney, they agreed to an issue and want to provide real timelines.
Prieto took part in negotiations and worked late into the night with Sweeney.
“It’s a great day for the state of New Jersey,” says the speaker.
Conservative State Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) refused to support the bill because he doesn’t like the portion that earmarks tax revenue from two new casinos to help revitalize Atlantic City, PolitickerNJ said.
“God bless Atlantic City, but it’s been a failure,” Doherty says on the floor of the senate.
“The revenue from new casinos should go to fund state programs all over the state,” says the Republican senator.