State Senate President Stephen Sweeney admitted he has been in discussions to bring casinos to North Jersey for “the past year” and that there is a “real possibility” a referendum on the issue could be on the ballot in November of 2015.
Sweeney made the revelations in an editorial board meeting with The Record newspaper (read their complete story here.)
The comments go against everything Sweeney, a South Jersey power player who is believed to be a top candidate for governor) has said in recent years.
Sweeney has been a strong proponent of a five-year moratorium on such talk. That idea was to give Atlantic City until 2016 to find a better solution while maintaining its monopoly on gaming in the state.
“I’ve talked to people up (in North Jersey) about gaming,” he told the Record. “If everyone is telling the truth – and you know I’m skeptical, too – then they care about Atlantic City, too. So if there is a true willingness – and I am taking everyone at their word – yeah, I am looking at it and I have looked at it for almost a year.”
There has long been speculation that a casino could be placed in the Meadowlands and/or Jersey City. Doing so may help stem the tide of losses the industry in the state has faced since the explosion of casinos in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.
The troubles of Atlantic City have been amplified in recent weeks. Late last month, Caesars Entertainment Corp. announced it would close Showboat, one of the operators four properties in the resort, at the end of August. The announcement followed news that Revel would close if its current owners couldn’t find a buyer by mid-August, and the shutdown of the Atlantic Club in January.
Sweeney said he has not spoken publicly about the issue in fear of how others would react.
“I thought it was unfair for people to be advancing bills and calling on things and showboating politically,” he told the paper.