Gov. Chris Christie says he would be “happy to have a conversation” with all necessary stakeholders about expanding casino gaming beyond Atlantic City and into northern New Jersey.
Christie took questions from reporters Monday in front of a home in Keansburg, where he announced the approval of another 132 federal elevation grants for Hurricane Sandy-impacted homeowners.
Christie’s comments on gaming expansion come in response to admissions made last week by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) to The Record that he has been discussing a North Jersey casino expansion for “the past year” and a move to place the issue on the November 2015 ballot could indeed be a “real possibility.”
“I’m glad that Sen. Sweeney is willing to have that conversation,” Christie said. “I’m willing to have it, too.”
Though past discussions on the matter have pointed heavily to the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park as potential casino destinations, Christie said he doesn’t want to limit talks to any particular locations.
“I don’t think we should go in with preconceived notions about it,” Christie said. “If you go in with preconceived notions, you don’t really have much of a conversation.”
Sweeney has previously said that cities such as Newark, Camden and Jersey City should also be considered as possible casino locations.
In February 2011, Christie announced a five-year moratorium on casino expansion outside of Atlantic City, a plan that Sweeney has since supported.
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Christie said Monday that willingness to open the conversation up at this point doesn’t threaten Atlantic City’s promised gaming exclusivity through the end of 2015.
“I think we’re still on that time schedule,” Christie said.
Any potential casino expansion plan into another part of the state should also have to incorporate measures designed to support Atlantic City’s industry, Christie said. Recent announcements such as Showboat planning to close its doors next month and Revel filing once again for bankruptcy don’t do much to impact the overall conversation, put provide “just a further example of why I think that would be a necessary part of any plan,” Christie said.
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