CASINO

Wynn confirms interest in North Jersey casino but politicians can’t make nice

TAGs: New Jersey, Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts

steve-wynn-north-jersey-casinoWynn Resorts boss Steve Wynn has confirmed his interest in building a casino in North Jersey, assuming the state’s politicians stop squabbling long enough to pass the necessary legislation.

On Friday, Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver confirmed rumors that had circulated the day before that Wynn had expressed an interest in New Jersey legislators’ proposals to amend the state constitution to permit casinos outside Atlantic City.

However, Weaver told NJ Advance Media that Wynn’s interest was contingent on legislators choosing an expansion plan that didn’t “limit the options available for future development of the industry, given that some of the top tier resort companies, such as Wynn, are not operating in Atlantic City.”

This appears to be an endorsement of the expansion plan floated by state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, which calls for two new casinos in the northern part of the state, one in each county.

A rival proposal by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney also envisions two casinos in two counties, but each casino would have to be at least partially owned by an existing Atlantic City operator. Sweeney’s plan also calls for a greater slice of the new casinos’ revenue to be shared with Atlantic City operators to help offset their expected loss of business.

On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie voiced his support for Sweeney’s plan, in large part because Christie doesn’t believe Prieto has the necessary support in the Assembly to pass his bill.

Christie’s involvement speaks to the urgency of the issue, as any plan to amend the state’s constitution requires a voter referendum, but getting the question on the ballot requires that a bill garner a simple majority vote in two consecutive legislative sessions, or a 60% supermajority vote in a single session.

Monday (11) marks the final day of the current legislative session, meaning that if consensus can’t be reached on which bill to support, whatever bill is put forward in the final session before this November’s ballot would require supermajority support, and getting three-fifths of New Jersey legislators to support anything is akin to herding cats.

Anyone who doubted that last statement needed only to listen to Sweeney accuse Prieto of “jerking him around” on the issue while questioning why New Jersey should do anything to favor Wynn, who has publicly disparaged Atlantic City and whose casinos are, in Sweeney’s estimation, “losing money.”

Steve Wynn was one of AC’s early casino barons, having launched the old Golden Nugget casino in 1980. Wynn sold the property in 1987, having become disenchanted with the city’s political and regulatory management. The property eventually morphed into the Atlantic Club, but the property hit hard times and became the first of four AC casinos to close its doors in 2014.

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