New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’ll actively campaign against allowing casinos in the north half of the state unless Atlantic City accedes to his demand for a state takeover of the city’s finances.
Christie had been a vocal proponent of allowing two new casinos in north Jersey, and state residents will get a chance to vote yea or nay on the issue via a ballot referendum this November. But Christie now says the issue is bound to be rejected unless AC gets its fiscal house in order ASAP, and the only way he sees that happening is if the state takes control.
On Thursday, Christie held a press conference, at which he claimed there was “no way voters will approve the expansion of gaming when the only place where gaming has been allowed goes down the toilet.” Christie believes AC is “headed for a disaster” along with the prospect of north Jersey gaming “if we don’t get our act together.”
Clearly missing the gene that allows one to discern irony, Christie claimed it was high time “to stop all the theater,” then vowed to “campaign across the state against the referendum” if AC mayor Don Guardian continues to resist calls to sign over financial control of the city. “And I’ll make sure [the referendum is] defeated.”
Christie reiterated that he’ll withhold his signature from the PILOT financial aid package meant to pluck AC from its fiscal fire unless state legislators pass the takeover provisions without any amendments. The state Senate has already passed the measures but Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto wants to expunge a clause that would strip unionized public sector employees of their collective bargaining rights.
On Thursday, Christie said Prieto “needs to learn he can’t have everything he wants.” Preto later retorted that the onus was on Christie to negotiate a compromise, “but that would require [Christie] to do something he seldom does – his job.”
Christie also accused Steven Fulop, the mayor of Jersey City – a possible contender for hosting one of the new north Jersey casinos — of pulling Prieto’s strings, saying “when you see Vinny Prieto’s mouth move, you know Steve Fulop’s talking.”
An amused Fulop issued a statement saying that the governor’s “name calling and accusations” were “nothing more than a temper tantrum.” Fulop called Christie’s bluff, saying campaigning against something for which the governor had previously advocated “wouldn’t be his first flip-flop” and claimed Jersey City “will be just fine with or without a casino.”
Guardian echoed Christie’s belief that AC’s woes could derail the north Jersey referendum, saying anyone who believed more casinos were the solution should “take a look at the false promises casino gambling made to Atlantic City.”
Guardian has said AC will officially run out of money by April 9 unless the state comes through with the aid package. This means halting all non-essential municipal services and no longer paying workers. City staff held a vote Thursday on a plan that would pay them every four weeks instead of every two weeks, which could postpone the city’s day of reckoning until May 6. The vote results have yet to be made public.