By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Right now we are focused on generating awareness with voters so they understand what a bad deal this is for taxpayers,” veteran political operative Bill Cortese, the executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet, said in a statement.
“We also want to make sure residents have a voice in this process. So far very little information has been shared – a typical play by Trenton politicians when they want to move something through the back door.”
The coalition also stated that New Jerseyans should take the projected economic advantages of North Jersey casinos with a grain of salt, since “Trenton has failed to deliver” many times in recent memory.
Trenton’s Bad Bet points to a nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund shutting down $775 million in State Department of Transportation projects and $2.7 billion in New Jersey Transit projects, broken promises to cut property taxes when they have sharply increased and nearly $1 billion in 9/11 funds designed to support the emergency call operation in New Jersey as examples of statewide failures.
Last week, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) compromised on a $16 billion Transportation Trust Fund plan, though it remains to be seen how far the bill goes without the support of Gov. Chris Christie (R).
After a long battle over how to bring casinos to North Jersey, Christie, Prieto and Sweeney introduced a $5 billion initiative, said to create 12,000 jobs, where the first step would be to get a referendum question about North Jersey casinos on the November 8 ballot.
“This referendum is another bad deal for New Jersey, designed to help special interests while harming taxpayers. We are making it clear today that we will do everything in our power to ensure these new casinos never come to be,” added Bob McDevitt, of Unite Here Local 54 in Atlantic City, a board member for the group.
“Trenton has a track record of making promises it fails to keep and there’s no reason to believe the benefits touted in this proposal will be any different.”
Debra P. Di Lorenzo, the chairwoman of the no North Jersey Casinos Coalition, which launched last month, said one look at the current state of Atlantic City shows what North Jersey casinos would amount to.
“It is indisputable that expanding gaming within New Jersey will only result in more of what the South Jersey region has already lived through – more casino closures, more jobs lost, less vendor money being spent and higher unemployment,” she said in the same statement.
An Atlantic City casino CEO said at a St. Peter’s University panel in March that North Jersey casinos could potentially be the death stroke for Atlantic City.
The group was also critical of the referendum for not having definitive locations in mind, nor who would develop the casinos.
Possibilities previously suggested include Jersey City, the Meadowlands and Newark.
In January, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was bullish on bringing a casino to Jersey City, one such option was a luxury entertainment complex known as Liberty Rising, explaining that it would bring “a revenue boon” to the city by creating around 6,000 jobs.
However, as time went on, Fulop began to backtrack on the issue.
In March, the mayor stressed that he would ultimately follow the wishes of Jersey City voters on the matter, tweeting that he needs “to better understand casino culture” the next month shortly before taking a trip to Atlantic City and rethinking his initial stance.
This change of heart led to a Twitter feud with state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), who welcomed bringing a concept like Liberty Rising to Elizabeth.
Fulop, Lesniak and Sweeney are all expected to face off in the Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, but as of now, the only declared candidate is former U.S. ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy.