Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver today said the gaming summit kicking-off Friday in Atlantic City will serve as the “legislative Democrats’ answer to the Hanson Commission,” which was created by gubernatorial executive order.

As per the commission’s report, Governor Chris Christie is calling for the state to get out of the horse racing business, all part of a push to overhaul the state's gaming, sports and entertainment industries. Christie is also backing a recommendation to close or sell the state-owned and financially struggling Meadowlands Racetrack.

In a major victory for Atlantic City, the Governor’s task force on gaming didn't endorse placing slot machines at the state's four race tracks. The racing industry has said it needs slots to stay alive. The casinos have been bitterly fighting the move, even as they paid tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to the tracks in return for a monopoly on slots.

Sweeney says, “The Governor and the Republicans had their task force, and now Democrats have our fact-finding mission.”

“The Republican administration has offered their plan, and now it’s time for the Democratic majority to take a look at it and also put forth its own ideas,” says Oliver. “But as everyone has seen, we are open to all ideas, no matter where they come from, as evidenced by some of bills we’ve advanced to benefit the horse racing industry that were sponsored both by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.”

Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) to lead the talks. In addition to the co-chairs and the Senate President and Speaker, other members named to the summit include Senators Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) and Assembly members Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Matthew W. Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May) and Connie Wagner (D-Bergen).

As you might expect, Republicans feel shut out of the process. “It’s unacceptable to inject partisan politics into the modernization of major industries in New Jersey’s economy. The long-term futures of gaming and horse farming cross geographic and ideological boundaries. A transparent and fair process should include a balance of stakeholders including bipartisan representatives of the people,” says Senate GOP Leader Tom Kean. “I hope that the Senate Leadership reconsiders their position and opens a seat at the table for Republicans.”

Republican Assemblyman John Amodeo says, “Somehow this legislative gaming summit devolved into a Democratic summit. Limiting the summit to one party only hinders the important work we have ahead of us to ensure a vibrant Atlantic City and horse racing industry. A one-party summit screams of partisanship instead of a sincere bipartisan effort to improve our state.”

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