Casino union backs Sweeney plan for expansion referendum
Atlantic City's main casino workers union is backing state Senate President Steve Sweeney's plan for a referendum on expanding casinos to northern New Jersey.
Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union opposes casinos outside Atlantic City. But it says Sweeney's plan does more than a rival Assembly measure to limit the damage to Atlantic City from new in-state competition.
Sweeney's plan would send half the tax revenue from the new casinos to help Atlantic City. It also would require that both of them be owned by existing Atlantic City casino operators. The dueling bills differ on who could own the casinos and how much money they would send to Atlantic City.
Union president Bob McDevitt said Sunday that Sweeney is more mindful of the impact on Atlantic City, which lost four of its 12 casinos -- and more than 8,000 jobs -- in 2014.
"While Atlantic City has taken it on the chin in recent years, there are still tens of thousands of New Jersey residents and their families directly dependent on the casino industry in Atlantic City," McDevitt said. "Whatever happens with this legislation will have a massive impact on these New Jersey casino workers and their families, and for the life of me I cannot understand why some legislators want to heap additional burdens on these workers and their industry."
The Assembly bill would allow outside companies to own one of the two new casinos, and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has vowed not to adopt the Senate measure. Sweeney said the prospect of casinos in northern New Jersey will be "dead" if one of the two referendum plans is not adopted Monday, the final day of the Legislative session. Passing a referendum bill in the next session will require additional votes that Sweeney predicted will not be there.
Prieto has said the Assembly bill would allow some of the top casino companies in the world, including Wynn Resorts, to come to New Jersey, where they presently do not operate. They would be restricted to a minority partnership in a new casino of no more than 49 percent under the Senate bill.
"New Jersey casino workers and the industry here in Atlantic City have given much to this state over the years," said McDevitt, whose union represents nearly 10,000 Atlantic City workers. "Sweeney's bill clearly takes into account the damage these new casinos will do to Atlantic City."
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