Christie, lawmakers strike a deal on North Jersey casinos
New Jersey lawmakers Monday announced a compromise that could allow voters to decide on whether or not to build two casinos in the northern part of the Garden State.
In a brief press conference in Gov. Chris Christie’s outer office at the State House that lasted less than eight minutes, Christie was joined by State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus). They announced an agreement had been reached on legislation that would ask voters in November if they would like to amend the constitution to allow two casinos in north Jersey.
“I’m pleased after a lot of effort and a lot of conversation amongst the three of us that we can announce today that we have an agreement on how to move forward on north Jersey gaming,” said Christie. “Nothing will get done today.”
The new session of the Legislature begins Tuesday and identical resolutions will be introduced in the senate and assembly. In order to get the casino question on the ballot in November of 2016 the measures must pass both houses by a three-fifths majority. Forty-eight votes would be needed in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate.
“Nobody here is getting exactly what they wanted or exactly the outline of what they asked for, but the most important thing in my view was to bring resolution to this issue,” Christie said. “I want to thank the senate president and the assembly speaker for their willingness to work together and to work with me. This is how the process is supposed to work.”
For the past few weeks, Sweeney had demanded and he included in legislation that both licenses for north Jersey casinos must go to companies already operating casinos in Atlantic City. That would still be the case under the agreement that was reached.
“I’m very happy today that we can come to an agreement,” said Sweeney. “We’re not going through this exercise as a game. This is extremely important to the entire state of New Jersey.”
There were two compromises that were touted. One would require that there must be a minimum $1 billion investment in the new casinos so that a new entertainment destination could be created. The other deal was that timelines would be established for whoever wins the licenses to start building casinos or risk losing that license.
“We want to get this right and for me it’s all about compromise and today I think is a great day, not for the people standing here,” said Prieto. “It’s for the state of New Jersey.”
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.