Sweeney all-in on North Jersey casinos
Although last Monday, State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) unveiled his legislative package designed to help Atlantic City survive, the legislator is still actively exploring the possibility of casinos outside the struggling resort town.
"I'm the one that actually started that discussion and it wasn't one that I wanted to have, but yeah I think if it's done properly, yeah I think there will be support," Sweeney said at a State House press conference. "There's going to be a benefit to the taxpayers of the State of New Jersey and there's going to be a benefit to Atlantic City."
Forty-five percent of the gamblers placing bets in states that neighbor New Jersey are actually from the Garden State, according to statistics cited by Sweeney. He called them convenience gamblers who are not interested in driving more than hour.
"What we're looking to do is re-capture dollars that are escaping the state of New Jersey and use them to benefit Atlantic City," Sweeney said. "What we're looking to do is to get gamblers that are leaving the state - not people that are coming to Atlantic City - and diverting them to other locations."
Upwards of $600 million could be generated if casinos were allowed outside of Atlantic City, Sweeney estimated. He suggested that $350 million to $400 million could be put into programs for senior citizens and the disabled and a pot of funding could also be created that would go to a non-profit dedicated to helping revitalize Atlantic City.
"I think there's a real benefit to Atlantic City to have that discussion about gambling outside of Atlantic City. As the president of the Senate I can tell you I am very focused on it and very committed to trying to get it done as long as it makes sense for Atlantic City," Sweeney said.
At least one lawmaker whose legislative district includes Atlantic City was not thrilled with Sweeney's talk of casinos outside of the resort town.
"My focus is strictly on Atlantic City and not North Jersey casinos right now," said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield). "There has been conversation about North Jersey casinos and that's for another time, another day down the road. Hopefully, way down the road."