Amidst heated debate over which of two possible casino expansion bills is superior to save New Jersey’s gambling industry, one state assemblyman is publicly calling for a compromise.
In an opinion piece for the Asbury Park Press, New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo spoke at length about the urgency for the advancement of the North Jersey casino expansion bill. The bill has been stuck in the Assembly for what Caputo feels is an unreasonable amount of time, and some movement must take place soon for the issue to make the November 2016 ballot.
In order to make the 2016 ballot, the bill must pass both the Assembly and the Senate. The urgency to come to a compromise is fueled by the need to give Atlantic City desperately needed funding. Four out of twelve casinos have closed in Atlantic City within the past year, and the closures have caused massive job losses.
There is a large disagreement on what the bill should actually look like. Most New Jersey officials are in agreement that a casino expansion to Northern Jersey is necessary. However, there are two versions of the bill and the Senate and Assembly have gotten behind different versions.
How have the bills changed over time?
Both bills have changed substantially from what they originally looked like. In the op-ed article Caputo explains the evolution of the Assembly bill and stresses that the Assembly has already taken several steps towards what the Senate’s proposal looks like:
“I’ve approached this with compromise in mind. The Assembly first proposed three casinos when I introduced a bill in early June, but now it proposes two. The Assembly first proposed sending 35 percent of the new casino tax revenues to Atlantic City for 15 years, but it now proposes 50 percent of the first $300 million in new money, then 35 percent of the rest, with some of that money also sent to the horse industry.”
The Senate’s proposed bill has made minimal compromises or changes since its introduction. The Senate’s proposal is also much more beneficial to Atlantic City.
It asks for 50 percent of the first $150 million, then for each additional $150 million the percentage given would be reduced by 10 percent. The Senate also has refused to budge on whom it wishes to operate the new casinos. In the bill it states that both new casinos could only be owned and operated by existing Atlantic City casino properties.
Is a compromise possible?
A compromise seems possible, but Caputo states “all sides must budge” to effectively get the bill to see a vote.
From the general tone of Caputo’s message, it seems a lot like the Assembly has grown tired of attempting to compromise while receiving no cooperation from their colleagues in the Senate:
“Whether New Jersey voters want to expand casino gaming to northern New Jersey remains to be seen, but they deserve the opportunity to decide. The Assembly has moved far and wide to get this done but it takes two sides to recognize a good compromise. Those who continue to oppose the Assembly bill for whatever reason risk hurting Atlantic City and our gaming industry, and thus our seniors and disabled residents. Let’s do the right thing for our entire state.”