Christie says he favors expanding casinos to northern N.J.

By Claude Brodesser-Akner | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 27, 2015

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie says he'd be in favor of approving a recently announced partnership between the Florida-based Hard Rock gaming company and the Meadowlands Racetrack — as long as tax revenues from the venture would help pay to revitalize ailing Atlantic City.

Speaking on his monthly call in radio show, Christie said that while no one had presented the proposal to him, he had heard "rumblings" that the Legislature planned to place the idea on the November ballot for a statewide referendum on expanding gaming to the northern part of the state, and said he'd be in favor of such a move.

"I have absolutely no problem with that question going on the ballot right away," Christie said, "The competition's only going to grow, in New York, in particular. And so if we could plant our flag firmly in the ground, I think it would make the project even more successful."

In 1974, New Jersey voters shot down an attempt at legalizing casino gambling statewide, but two years later approved a referendum which legalized casinos, but restricted them to Atlantic City.

Owing to an 1897 referendum which amended the state constitution to ban all gambling, all new gaming law in New Jersey requires statewide voter approval. The deadline for state election officials to print a ballot seeking an end Atlantic City's casino monopoly is a little more than two months away.

State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney had proposed just such a measure last summer, but earlier this month said he was considering whether to wait until the 2016 presidential election, given the low-level of voter turnout associated with the Assembly-only election this November.

New Jersey's constitution requires lawmakers wait two years before another attempt if a majority of voters do not approve an amendment.

"I think given the competition around us, it would be the right thing to do," said Christie, adding that he'd like to see a "right of first refusal" for Atlantic City casino workers displaced by the closure of four casinos last year.

However, the governor stressed that he wouldn't weigh in on one project over another without first having seen specific plans.

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