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(28th LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT) – Assemblyman Ralph Caputo on Tuesday announced he’s introduced legislation that would require the state to publicly bid any plan to sell or lease the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Caputo (D-Essex) emphasized he continues to support bringing video lottery terminals to the racetrack to allow it to compete fairly with nearby racino facilities, but said his legislation (A-3213) would serve as failsafe to ensure the administration doesn’t essentially give away the racetrack.
“We must wake up to the fact that gamblers are being lured away from Atlantic City to racinos and other new gaming venues in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware,” Caputo said. “We cannot live in denial. We must protect Atlantic City casinos, but we also must support our entire gaming industry, retain and expand the revenue it generates and, most importantly, keep that revenue here in New Jersey. That’s what VLTs would accomplish.”
Caputo said VLTs at the Meadowlands could generate between $500 million to $700 million annually in recurring net revenue for the state and create 1,500 top 2,000 new jobs.
Still, Caputo noted Gov. Christie’s gaming report recommended, among other things, closing or leasing the racetrack for $1 a year.
“I know this much – video lottery terminals are the way to go for the Meadowlands,” Caputo said. “I also know this much – leasing the track for $1 a year, should it come to that, would be an insult to each and every New Jersey taxpayer. The Meadowlands represents some of the most valuable real estate in the world. We cannot essentially just give it away. It would be beyond foolish.”
Caputo’s bill requires that the sale or lease by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority of all or part of its interest in the Meadowlands complex be conducted through a public auction process.
“We need a process that ensures that the process is reliable, accurate, transparent and effective, and of course will encourage the highest possible bid for the benefit of our taxpayers, if it comes to that point,” Caputo said. “I will work hard to make sure that never happens, but I also owe it to the taxpayers to not leave the door open for a $1 a year lease.”
Under the bill, the specifications would include a comprehensive written description of the public auction process, with instructions for bidders; a designated duration of the bidding process for each auction; the location and availability of bidding information that is as current as possible, but excluding any black-out period; the performance of an independent real estate appraisal to be used as the minimum starting bid; a description of the documentation rules for the entire bidding process; and any other specifications to ensure the integrity of the public auction process and the attainment of the highest possible bid.