Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) has asked the State Auditor to review the finances and assets of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) before the Legislature decides if they should approve a requested $30 million subsidy to the debt-ridden authority.
The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, which Buono chairs, held a public hearing today to consider the future of the NJSEA.
“We had the chance to hear from a number of stakeholders, both within the Sports Authority and outside. Several things became abundantly clear. The state has been shouldering the authority’s debt at an increasing rate since 1992,” Buono said. “The authority ventured far afield of its original mission as a result of decisions that were based on sports preferences rather than economic viability and sound land use planning. The operating model that worked in the early days of the authority has become unsustainable.”
Buono says the results of the State Auditor’s report will be shared with a commission appointed by Gov. Christopher Christie last month that is taking a look at the state’s sports and gaming industry.
Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), whose South Bergen district is home to Giants Stadium, the Izod Center arena, and the Meadowlands Race Track, said that the NJSEA-run complex is “New Jersey’s most valuable piece of real estate.”
“Certainly, we need to ensure that the sports complex is run efficiently and to the best interests of the state and its residents, “Sarlo said. “We must also ensure that the entire Meadowlands region is given the ability to continue to grow as an economic power in the Northeast.”
“Moving forward, we need to stop fighting the regional battles that pit North Jersey versus South, and identify solutions that allow us to capture as much revenue as we can from the State’s united sports and entertainment vehicles,” said Sarlo. “By creating a coordinated sports and entertainment economic plan that recognizes the value of Atlantic City, Monmouth Park, The Prudential Arena and the Meadowlands sports complex, we can all benefit.”
Assemblyman Vincent Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township), who represents Atlantic City, said that today’s hearing raised questions about the state’s long term strategy at the Meadowlands, and repeated his fervent opposition to allowing the Meadowlands to supplement its revenues with video lottery terminals.
“The testimony provided to the SLO committee by representatives of the NJSEA and Meadowlands Commission brings to the forefront many important public policy questions,” said Polistina. “I recognize how critical the complex is to New Jersey’s economy. In determining the best course of action to help the Meadowlands, it is just as critical that consideration be given to the vital role that casinos play in New Jersey’s economy.”
“We need to find alternatives other than expanding the use of video lottery terminals or other forms of gaming in order to assist the operations of the NJSEA,” Polistina said. “Our public policy regarding these entities must be a strategy that is best for New Jersey, and not an approach that helps one operation at the expense of the other. An equitable balance must be struck, but the renaissance of the Meadowlands must not result in the demise of the casino industry. Extending gaming outside of Atlantic City would do just that.”