The reaction of state legislators to a governor’s commission report on gaming and racing broke jaggedly along the state’s north-south fault lines, with politicians cherry-picking and amplifying their issues of choice.
Longtime northern advocates of VLTs in the Meadowlands reacted negatively to Gov. Chris Christie’s Wednesday press conferences, while their southern counterparts digested the news with considerably less consternation.
“I call on the governor to quickly reject the recommendation to sell or close the Meadowlands race track,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville).
“That recommendation is the exact opposite of what we should be doing to spark New Jersey’s economy, ease our budget problems and create jobs. The last thing we should be doing is giving up this asset. Rather, we should be exploiting its full potential and modernizing it by adding video lottery terminals to the Meadowlands.”
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) likewise bristled at the lack of discussion in the report of convenience gaming options outside of Atlantic City, and the commissioners’ seeming lack of curiosity about public-private partnerships for the horse-racing industry.
“Why are we having discussions about public-private partnerships for Xanadu and Atlantic City but not horse racing?” Beck wondered.
In South Jersey, Democrats conversely liked the fact that the commission banishes the idea of VLTs in the Meadowlands to oblivion and identifies the salvaging of Atlantic City as a priority, but still want to know more.
“Like all reports such as this, the devil is hiding in the details,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Paulsboro), who chairs the Assembly’s gaming and regulatory committee.
“Many recommendations appear to be a positive step toward promoting Atlantic City as a tourism and gaming mecca,” Burzichelli added. “I know many people would like to see video lottery terminals elsewhere in the state, but we must focus our efforts on ensuring Atlantic City’s long-term stability.
“Still, this report doesn’t go far enough. Noticeably missing are a major focus on Internet gambling and smaller boutique casinos, both of which will quite obviously play key roles in the future of gaming, both in attracting new revenue, competing with other states and creating jobs.”