While efforts to save Atlantic City continue on many fronts, a bitter battle continues on whether to allow casinos in other parts of the state. 

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Lawmakers debated the topic during an Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee hearing in Trenton on Dec. 4. Originally, the panel was scheduled to hear from Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian about the city's troubles and advice on what is needed to address them, but Guardian had to cancel his appearance due to a personal matter.

"We're losing so many customers to other destinations especially in the feeder markets from North Jersey," said committee chairman Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville).

Caputo sponsors a resolution to ask voters to amend the constitution to allow casinos in North Jersey. "That would be a decision for the people of the state. Any change in gaming must go before the voters."

The assemblymen is also co-sponsoring legislation that would establish a "Casino Gaming Study Commission" to explore future prospects for casino gaming in Bergen County.

However, some lawmakers fear that putting casinos in other parts of the state would further damage Atlantic City, which has already seen the closure of four casinos this year.

"Do I believe that by talking about bringing gaming outside of Atlantic City hurts private sector investment in Atlantic City? Common sense tells you, yes," said comimttee member Assemblyman Chris A. Brown (R-Northfield). "We know that if you put a casino in North Jersey you're simply going to cannibalize Atlantic City."

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), who also sits on the committee, was hoping to find out from Guardian why Atlantic City isn't benefiting from the casinos when elected officials in other parts of the state are clamoring for casinos for their areas.

That and other questions will be asked when and if Guardian can be rescheduled for testimony, Caputo said.