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Lawmakers Expand Referendum On Expanding N.J. Gambling Beyond Atlantic City

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Atlantic City monopoly on New Jersey casino gambling may soon be coming to an end.

As WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported, state lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would let voters decide to allow the development of casinos outside Atlantic City.

The referendum would ask New Jersey voters to approve up to three casinos in Bergen, Essex, or Hudson counties. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) favors one in the Meadowlands.

"I would prefer only seeing one, and if the referendum passes, we can get proposals from all these casino moguls and pick out which one is best," Weinberg said.

On Wednesday, Hard Rock International and the Meadowlands Racetrack will unveil their plans for a casino at the East Rutherford track.

In addition to the proposal for a casino at the Meadowlands, where the NFL's New York Jets and Giants play, footwear magnate Paul Fireman has proposed a casino in Jersey City on the Hudson River waterfront, directly across from Lower Manhattan.

There also has been talk of a casino in Newark, the state's largest city, but that is seen as more of a longshot. Oceanport in Monmouth County, where the Monmouth Park Racetrack also wants a casino, would be excluded from consideration under the bill.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), said he supports two northern new Jersey casinos, adding that they would ``create jobs, generate economic growth, restore the financial health of the state's gaming industry, compete with casinos in border states and help Atlantic City through its fiscal crisis.''

Jeff Gural, the Meadowlands Racetrack president, has volunteered to pay the same 55 percent tax rate as Pennsylvania's casinos do and share part of it with Atlantic City. He has said two northern New Jersey casinos could provide Atlantic City with $2 billion worth of subsidies over 10 years.

Lawmakers Expand Referendum On Expanding N.J. Gambling Beyond Atlantic City

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie supports the referendum, as long as part of the tax revenue from the new casinos goes to help Atlantic City.

Critics of the bill said the recent closure of four casinos in Atlantic City shows the market is oversaturated, but Weinberg believes the population density in the New York City are will make a North Jersey casino a success.

But southern New Jersey politicians vehemently oppose expanding casinos beyond Atlantic City.

``Today's announcement is a blow to hard-working middle-class families in Atlantic County and throughout the state,'' said Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-Linwood). ``It makes absolutely no sense to expand gaming outside Atlantic City when every expert and analyst will tell you the market is already oversaturated.''

Gambling in New Jersey beyond the Atlantic City has been banned by the constitution for 37 years. But a change in that law is rapidly gaining momentum as the Atlantic City casino industry falters.

The bill would have to be approved by Aug. 3 to make it onto this November's general election ballot.

Last week, analysts and casino executives speaking at a major gambling conference in Atlantic City agreed that the casino market in the Northeast is saturated. Ed Sutor, president of Dover Downs casino in Delaware, said, ``You're just moving money around'' without growing the overall market.

Monday's bill was sponsored by Caputo and Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City).

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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