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Grapevine: Déjà vu on hospital talks

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For Raritan Bay Medical Center, it's déjà vu all over again, according to a health care expert. The two-hospital system has narrowed the field of potential new owners to three bidders, including the Robert Wood Johnson system, which failed to acquire Raritan Bay in March 2010 after a year of discussions.

The other bidders include for-profit entities Hudson Holdco, LLC — the owners of Christ Hospital, Bayonne Medical Center and Hoboken University Medical Center — and Prime Healthcare, the California group that recently entered the New Jersey market with an agreement to acquire St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic.

The source said a fourth bidder, Meridian Health, withdrew its bid for the Perth Amboy and Old Bridge hospitals.

Raritan Bay released a statement in response, confirming the system had issued a request for partnerships, but would not confirm the identity of the possible contenders due to confidentiality agreements.

"Teaming up with a forward-thinking partner will allow us to expand our scope of services to better address the needs of our patients," said Raritan Bay Medical Center President and CEO Michael R. D'Agnes.

Editor's note: Hudson Holdco, LLC said on Jan. 15 that it is not a bidder.

Betting the bank on license

A tipster says the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel is planning to go forward with an application for a sports wagering license, pending its potential sale to online gaming giant PokerStars.

Media reports have said PokerStars is negotiating a deal to buy the Atlantic Club, though the source said the purchase hinges on Chris Christie's signature on a bill that would legalize online gaming in the state. Since both houses of the Legislature approved the bill on Dec. 20, the governor has a Feb. 4 deadline to act on it.

That's 10 days before a U.S. District Court judge hears arguments from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and four major professional leagues on the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting sports wagering in New Jersey — a result of litigation brought by the leagues, which has deterred other Atlantic City casinos from seeking to establish the practice.

But Atlantic Club's interest in sports wagering has not been swayed by the leagues' lawsuit, according to the source. However, the source said the casino's financial status has dragged out its plans to obtain a license that would allow visitors to place bets on sporting events.

Through a spokesman, Atlantic Club declined to comment.

So it still seems Dennis Drazin with Monmouth Park will be the first to file a sports betting application with the state Department of Gaming Enforcement.

Hail to the survivor in chief

When the president gives his State of the Union address each January, one cabinet member famously sits out the speech. That way, if catastrophe strikes, at least one member of the existing government would be able to keep government running.

Last year, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was the White House's "designated survivor," though Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also skipped the speech. She was out of the country.

Grapevine wondered if any such tradition was followed in the Garden State. The answer: Nope. Christie Spokesman Michael Drewniak confirmed that no such practice exists, "nor does it seem necessary."

For the record, if Christie couldn't complete his duties as governor, the lieutenant governor is next in line, followed by Senate president and speaker of the Assembly.

Miffed at perceived mafia ref

Christie's appearance on the cover of Time magazine had State Street buzzing. The news weekly plastered the cover with a close-up of an expressionless Christie atop the headline "The Boss."

The not-so-subtle mafia reference quickly drew criticism. "It's offensive," said Barbara DeMarco, vice president at Porzio Governmental Affairs. "It's unnecessary and it's offensive. There's no reason to put that innuendo out there."

DeMarco said it's particularly bothersome to liken Christie to an organized crime boss, given that the governor is a former U.S. Attorney who spent part of his time busting up organized crime rings. "I think it's a stereotype of New Jersey," she said. "I guess they're trying to sell magazines."

Asked about the cover Wednesday on Fox Business Network, the governor voiced his objections with humor.

"I'm reporting Time magazine to the, like, anti-Italian Defamation League," Christie told FBN's Don Imus. "I mean look at that thing with 'The Boss' underneath it, I mean come on. I can't wait for that to come home for my kids to see it."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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