Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) was among three Democrats who introduced legislation that would allow New Jersey voters to decide whether or not the Legislature can pass laws to establish casinos in Bergen, Essex and/or Hudson Counties.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
By putting the casino gaming question on the ballot as early as this year, North Jersey would finally have a viable spot to rival Atlantic City in the south. Additionally, the proposed constitutional amendment would allow for “no more than three” casinos in North Jersey.
“This bill is about keeping New Jersey’s gaming industry relevant and viable, but it’s also about replenishing hundreds of millions in annual gross gaming revenues that we have lost to neighboring states in recent years,” Mukherji said at a statehouse news conference this morning.
“The economic growth that would come from first-class casinos in Bergen, Essex and Hudson would help the entire state. These counties have some of the most prized real estate in the Northeast, a talented labor pool and sit at the heart of major transportation corridors.”
“We could use these assets and capitalize on the proximity of our three counties to entice patrons from New York City and surrounding areas.”
Acknowledging that there is some resistance against the idea due to concerns that include traffic and construction, the former Jersey City deputy mayor stressed to look at the job creation such an endeavor would create.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs. If the voters authorize limited North Jersey gaming in these three counties that are crucial to our economic success, we could realize more than 20,000 good paying jobs and realize billions in additional gross gaming revenues in the coming years.”
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), who represent portions of Essex and Bergen County, respectively, echoed Mukherji’s sentiment.
“This is about New Jersey missing out on the available markets in northern New Jersey and the surrounding region,” Caputo exclaimed. “With continuously encroaching competition from New York and Pennsylvania, the longer we wait the more our window of opportunity closes.”
“We are losing gaming tourists to our neighbors and it is time we bring them back home to New Jersey,” Vainieri Huttle stated. ” … We can bring top-flight casinos to Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties while helping Atlantic City, benefiting everyone and ensuring New Jersey remains competitive.”
Under the proposed amendment, the state’s share of revenues from those casinos would be used – as is done with Atlantic City casino revenues – for programs that assist senior citizens and residents with disabilities.
Furthermore, a portion of additional revenues from North Jersey gaming would also be dedicated to subsidies for non-gaming development in Atlantic City.
Last month, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) told Hudson County View about this upcoming piece of legislation, noting that Jersey City was “a very viable” location for a North Jersey casino.