Amodeo and Polistina say keeping casinos open is top priority

Two Republican Assemblymen from Atlantic County are touting each other as possible challengers to State Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic City) in 2011.

“We need a bright guy to move into the Senate position who has a career ahead of him, and that’s Vince Polistina,” said John Amodeo (R-Margate). “What we’ve seen recently is all the work has been done out of this office, not the other office.”

But Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Twp.) thinks Amodeo should be considered for the Senate seat.

“It’s really early,” Polistina added. “We’re both focused on going back to Trenton. I think John Amodeo would be a fabulous candidate for the state senate. He has a very diverse background to do that job.”

Amodeo and Polistina trounced their Democratic opponents last month in their bids for re-election to second terms in the Assembly. Whelan won the Senate seat in 2007, defeating short-term incumbent James “Sonny” McCullough (R-Egg Harbor Twp.).

The two GOP legislators say that the concentration of Atlantic City gaming power in the hands of billionaires Carl Icahn and Leon Blackmight not be optimal, but the economic terrain right now is so bad that any local investment and improvement is positive.

“We want our casinos to thrive,” said Amodeo. “We can’t take a hit anywhere. We always want a positive note out of Atlantic City, and whatever we can do to promote our industry and tourism utilizing Atlantic City, it’s a positive note.

“You’re in a situation where you can’t shut anything down,” added the Assemblyman. “The original deregulation that came in in the 1990’s started changing the face of Atlantic City and took much of the competitiveness away. But with the economy we’re in right now, we’re in a tough situation. This (acquisition of Tropicana by Carl Icahn) is is going to keep things moving forward generally speaking. Whether the concentration good or not, we need to promote our industry and keep gaming open.”

“I don’t know Carl Icahn,” said Polistina. “But Harrah’s (controlled by Leon Black, whose company operates four casinos total in New Jersey) is a fabulous organization and has been a good corporate citizen. Putting aside control of this many, we’re looking at people who are going to invest back in the properties as opposed to taking investment out of Atlantic City.”

Whelan, the Chairman of the Senate Gaming and Tourism Committee and a former Mayor of Atlantic City, this morning expressed concern about a deal – pending approval by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court – that would enable Icahn to purchase Tropicana to add to his Trump properties, thereby concentrating the ownership of eight of New Jersey’s 11 casinos in the hands of Icahn and Black.