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Blackjack on Broadway: Should this play concern Jersey? NY's new law could bring casino to Manhattan in next decade

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How's that classic Springsteen tune go again?

“Meet me tonight in...New York City.”

New York can now build up to seven new Las Vegas-style casinos after voters there approved a constitutional amendment earlier this month allowing the state to expand its gaming industry.

But a roll of the dice isn't a PATH-ride away just yet. A bill signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year dictates that only four new casinos will be built in the first seven years of implementation, none of which will be in the area of the five boroughs or Long Island.

The closest potential location of any new casino to North Jersey would most likely be somewhere in the Catskills.

For state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), that's a sigh of relief — for now.

"I would be more concerned if the New York referendum would allow for a casino in Manhattan," Lesniak said.

Atlantic City is no stranger to competition although it most certainly would like to be. In the last two years, Pennsylvania has surpassed New Jersey as the No. 2 gaming market in the country behind Las Vegas.

That's not to mention whatever market share the nearby casinos in Connecticut and Delaware hold. Upstate New York currently has five Native American-run casinos as well.

Steve Scheinthal, executive vice president and general counsel for Landry's Inc., the Golden Nugget's parent company, said he's not panicking about the idea of casinos upstate New York.

"There are a lot more pressing issues in Atlantic City than what might happen in New York seven years from now," Scheinthal said.

Not only is the New York City threat nonexistent at this point, but the discussion of even building a casino there is still years, possibly a decade, away, he said.

"Does it have potential down the road?" Scheinthal said. "Yeah, but seven years is a long time."

Scheinthal said Atlantic City's greatest challenge is not the potential for a Manhattan casino, but instead something that has already materialized: the Philadelphia gaming market and other nearby Pennsylvania casinos in the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos.

"Philadelphia is your biggest threat," Scheinthal said.

State Division of Gaming Enforcement director David Rebuck said in an emailed statement that Atlantic City is prepared to compete with New York in the way that it already is with Pennsylvania.

"Atlantic City has been facing competition since 2006 with the commencement of gaming operations in Pennsylvania," Rebuck said. "Competition is nothing new for New Jersey and it will be no different in 2014."

Rebuck added that he's pleased with the progress that has been made in transforming Atlantic City into a multifaceted entertainment destination.

But state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) thinks Atlantic City's time as the state's only gambling destination has run its course. The incoming threat of casinos in New York only strengthens his long-held belief that North Jersey needs one of its own, he said.

The Meadowlands would be a nice place to start, Codey said.

"Atlantic City's problem is location, location, location," Codey said. "That's not going to change."

E-mail to: andrewg@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @andrgeorge

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