Burzichelli, Mazzeo & Speaker Prieto Bill to Draw in Small-Scale Casinos, Re-Employ Displaced Casino Workers Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to ease certain laws governing casinos and help put former Atlantic City casino employees back to work was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill (A-4586) would eliminate a provision in a 2011 statute that requires one of the two licenses issued under a New Jersey Casino Control Commission pilot program to be a staged casino facility license. Under the statute, a staged casino facility license permits holders to operate a facility with 200 rooms, provided they agree to expand the facility to include at least 500 rooms within five years of being licensed.

“High-end casinos with a price tag of $1 billion or $2 billion have gone extinct in Atlantic City, crushing the economy and forcing thousands of workers into unemployment,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This legislation will encourage those who want to build smaller casinos to do business in New Jersey and will enable owners of existing facilities to incorporate gaming into their business models.”

The sponsors noted that eliminating the expansion requirement would permit the commission to attract parties interested in establishing small-scale casinos in New Jersey. The less costly facilities would be allowed to operate permanently with a minimum of 200 rooms rather the 500-room minimum outlined in current law.

The legislation also would allow small-scale casinos to be located in renovated buildings. Under current law, such facilities only are permitted in newly constructed buildings.

“Last year’s series of casino closings cost thousands of hard-working middle-class people their jobs and was a blow to the economy of the Atlantic City region,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “In our attempt to make Atlantic City the resort destination we know it can be, this legislation will play a role in bringing in new gaming revenue and a different type of experience for Atlantic City visitors.”

“Small-scale casinos can open the door to a desperately-needed new revenue stream in New Jersey and attract patrons who would otherwise spend their money in neighboring states,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “The economic benefits of this bill – from the job creation it will facilitate to the overall revenue it will draw in – are what the state of New Jersey needs now.”

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, of which Burzichelli is chair.