Caputo pushes for video lottery terminals at Meadowlands

TRENTON – Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, (D-28), Essex, wants to see the odds stacked in New Jersey’s favor.

In particular, he wants to see the dice roll New Jersey’s way when competing against out-of-state gambling options.

Gov. Chris Christie wants to focus attention on revitalizing Atlantic City, but the Northern Jersey assemblyman doesn’t want his end of the state forgotten.

Caputo wants to drum up renewed interest in his proposals – A2458  and A2550 –  for permitting video lottery terminals at the Meadowlands racetrack.

Earlier today, supporters of expanded betting options testified before the Senate State Government Committee.

Caputo’s effort would require voter approval via referendum, which is not going to be held during this November’s election. “I’d like to see it happen before the (2014) Super Bowl,’’ he said.

“The governor wants to see a renaissance (in Atlantic City), and I understand why,’’ Caputo said. “The competition is getting more severe.’’

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week shows a majority of voters in New York want more Las Vegas-style casinos that are not associated with Indian tribes. At the same time, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering more casinos to boost jobs and revenue for his state.

Add that to the increased gaming competition from Pennsylvania, and Caputo senses time is starting to run out on New Jersey.

“There is very little wiggle room at this point,’’ he said. “This is going to happen eventually; I don’t want it to happen too late.’’

Caputo’s bill is not the only lifeline being offered to New Jersey’s gaming industry.

Earlier this year, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, said he would reintroduce his online betting legislation to help push the horse racing industry closer to self-sufficiency by increasing purses. His earlier bill drew a veto from the governor.

And in Atlantic City, smaller, so-called boutique casinos with fewer hotel rooms are being lured as just one way to boost that city’s gaming business.

But Caputo is especially concerned about the fate of Northern Jersey in light of the intensified out-of-state competition.

“We’re going to be losing tremendous amounts of revenue,” he said. “We should readjust our position. Most of our customers to Atlantic City come from New York.’’

Among other things, his proposal would have a Meadowlands video lottery terminal plan developed by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The Division of Gaming Enforcement would have enforcement responsibility.

Also, revenue would go into a new “Video Lottery Terminal Fund.” In part, that revenue would go to game winners, Lottery division and Sports Authority administrative expenses, and a newly created “Horse Racing Special Fund.”

Caputo has also sponsored Resolutions – AJR65 and ACR169 – to explore prospects for casino gaming in Bergen County and to determine if casinos should be established in Bergen County.

Caputo said he does not see these as anti-Atlantic City proposals. “To look at this in a provincial way is not appropriate at this time,’’ he said.

Yet that is the tack different organizations have taken.

Southern Jersey lawmakers as well as casino groups oppose the concept of such terminals in the Meadowlands, arguing that casinos – already hurt by the recession – would be at risk even further by increased in-state gaming competition.

The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, however, summarized the opposite view: That not allowing video terminals ignores another entire group of gamblers. Caputo pushes for video lottery terminals at Meadowlands