Newark leaders offer mixed reactions to casino proposal

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on December 03, 2014

By Naomi Nix and Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

 

NEWARK — Newark city leaders offered mixed reactions today to a proposal to place a casino within the city's borders.

Al Koeppe, former PSE&G head and former CEO of Newark Alliance, said while a casino might help curb Newark's unemployment problem city officials should closely examine the viability of such an endeavor.

"Obviously we need jobs. That’s usually the rational for any of these big investments," he said. "The question has to be what jobs, where, and are the jobs are real?"

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), and state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) today arguing that Newark's highways, public transportation and Newark Liberty International Airport make it an ideal location for a casino.

“The development of a casino most definitely will put people back to work,” DiVincenzo wrote. “Despite the economic recovery on Wall Street, Newark and Essex County continue to have among the highest rates of unemployment. A project of this magnitude most definitely will create numerous construction jobs, but it will also create hundreds of permanent jobs.”

But Koeppe said city leaders should closely examine the gambling market before committing to inviting a casino to the city.

"You would have to look at the gaming industry in its entirety," he said. "There is a question in my mind as to how viable the gaming industry is in the 21st century."

Ramona Thompson of the Newark Downtown District said a casino might bring more people to the city.

"You would hope it would do something for the economy, but really I am not sure at this point. I'd need to know more about it," she said.

East Ward councilman Augusto Amador said if a casino goes anywhere in the city the East Ward would be an ideal location.

"I appreciate the Governor's and County executive's vote of confidence in Newark and especially the East Ward," he said in a statement. "I submit that the East Ward...is the best place to bring a casino."

City officials did not immediately comment.

But Essex County spokesman Anthony Puglisi said DiVincenzo and Newark mayor Ras Baraka have not yet spoken about the possibility of putting a casino in Newark, though the two are scheduled to meet tomorrow.

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