A North New Jersey casino referendum that was once lauded as a boon for the state’s gambling industry and overall economy is loosing support. As the November 8 ballot draws near, that’s got some lawmakers considering new ways to generate more gambling revenue for the state. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo is leading that charge, telling the media that he intends to remove the ‘voter approval‘ requirement from a bill that seeks to place video slots in racetracks.
According to the most recent reports, the casino referendum, which requires the support of the majority of New Jersey’s voters, is expected to fail next month. The results of a poll hosted in September by Rutgers-Eagleton revealed that 58% of voters now disapprove of the plan. Only 35% support the idea of open two new casinos in the northern part of the state.
That’s good news for Atlantic City casinos, who would rather not compete with two new gambling resorts in the northern part of the state. Operators have argued that many of their customers travel from that region, and that they would lose too much business if the referendum passes.
It’s bad news for Mr. Caputo, though, who was originally relying on those same voters to get his video slots bill into the law books. With so many vicing their objection to gambling expansion in the Garden State, his odds were looking slim.
Caputo Considers Loophole for Video Slots Bill
|Assemblyman Caputo had previously introduced two bills that sought to legalize the placement of video lottery terminals – aka slot machines – at racetracks across the state, including The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ.Both of those bills, which have sat idle up until now, would have required a voter referendum to prove there was enough support. Otherwise, the amendment could not be approved by legislators and passed into law.
But with more and more residents denouncing the North New Jersey casino referendum just weeks before going to the polls, Caputo looked for a Plan B. He found it in a small loophole that could get his bill passed without going through voters first.
Mr. Caputo admitted to The Associated Press last week that he doesn’t think voters would support his plan. Therefore he intends to rely upon the official opinion of former NJ Attorney General Irwin Kimmilman, who said in 1982 that legislation regarding video lottery terminals should not require a Constitutional amendment.
Any proposed Constitutional amendment must be approved by voters via referendum, and according to the Constitution, gambling may only take place in Atlantic City. But if Caputo manages to convince his colleagues that Kimmilman’s estimation of VLT-law is worth upholding, he just may be able to get video slots into racetracks, whether the people of the state want it or not.
If successful, the measure would effectively overturn a 1983 rule signed into effect by then Governor Tom Kean. That rule stipulates that the state lottery cannot host video lottery terminals, leaving their operation exclusively in the hands of licensed and regulated Atlantic City casinos.