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N.J. voters to decide whether to allow north Jersey casinos

Friday, March 18, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 03/14/2016

New Jersey voters will get to decide in November whether to end Atlantic City's 40-year-old monopoly on casino gambling and expand the practice to the northern part of the state. Both houses of the state Legislature on Monday passed a resolution that will put a question on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters whether to approve two casinos in north Jersey. The state Senate voted 34-6 and the state Assembly voted 54-15, with three abstentions, in favor of the resolution (SCR1/ACR1) — despite fears from some lawmakers that the new casinos will cause even more damage to financially struggling Atlantic City. After casinos were legalized there in 1976, the city was the East Coast's premier gambling destination for decades But the city has seen four casinos close in recent years amid ever-increasing competition from gambling halls in neighboring states.

Proponents say north Jersey casinos would New Jersey competitive in the northeast gaming market, and bringing in millions of dollars in new revenue and thousands of new jobs. "This is historic," Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), one of the plan's main sponsors, said after the plan passed Monday. Both houses of the state Legislature on Monday passed a resolution that will put a question on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved by voters, the plan would also give up to $200 million annually in taxes from the new casinos to Atlantic City to help offset the losses it is likely to incur from north Jersey gambling and help the Jersey Shore resort town as an entertainment destination. The money to the city would decrease over time. The rest of the revenue would be split between programs and tax relief for senior citizens and the disabled. Two percent would go to New Jersey's struggling horse racing industry and to municipalities and counties where the new casinos are located. But opponents say the plan would likely lead to more casinos closing in Atlantic City. They add that the benefits to the state may be moot because eight new casinos will soon open in the northeast market, and New York City may open one if north Jersey opens gambling halls. It's still unclear where the casinos will be built or what tax rate they will pay the state. The ballot question doesn't specify either, but lawmakers say both issues will be decided in later legislation — possibly before voters head to the polls in eight months.

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