Hearing set for Jan 7. on Assembly casino referendum plan

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A public hearing on one of two competing plans to ask voters whether to authorize two new casinos in northern New Jersey will be held Jan. 7.

A state Assembly committee will hold the hearing in Trenton on a proposed referendum on expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City.

Both houses of the state Legislature have thus far been unable to agree on a measure. The Senate's version, which had a public hearing Dec. 21, would require both of the new casinos to be owned by an existing Atlantic City casino operator; the Assembly version only applies that requirement to one of the new licenses.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto says no agreement has yet been reached on which version to put before voters.

"Regrettably, we remain where we were last week," he said.

No changes have been made to the Assembly bill that will be the subject of the Jan. 7 hearing since it was amended last week.

Both bills would send some of the gambling tax revenue the new casinos would generate to Atlantic City to compensate it for the anticipated loss of business to in-state competition. But they differ on how much would go to Atlantic City, and how much would fund programs and tax relief for senior citizens and the disabled statewide.

Expanding casinos to other areas of the state would require amending the state Constitution, which restricts them to Atlantic City.

The question to be put before voters would not specify which cities the casinos would be built in, but the two most talked about locations are at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, and in Jersey City.


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