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(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner on Thursday said ideas such as bidding the operations of the Meadowlands Racetrack, Izod Center and Xanadu and asking the public to approve the governor’s plan for taking over parts of Atlantic City are among concepts that should be considered by the Democratic gaming summit.
The first meeting of the gaming summit is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Friday at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Room 411, One Convention Boulevard in Atlantic City. Caputo and Wagner are among the 10 Democratic legislators participating in the meetings.
“We need to investigate all options,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “The governor’s report was woefully incomplete, vague and was created without any public knowledge of who was interviewed and what proposals were considered and rejected. There are many other viable alternatives and they all need to be explored as we move toward a statewide plan to benefit our entire sports and gaming industries.”
Caputo and Wagner noted Christie’s plan proposes, among other things, leasing the Meadowland Racetrack for just $1 annually.
“It’s irresponsible to immediately assume that a $1 annual lease is the best option for taxpayers,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “We should make an effort to do better than that for the benefit of our taxpayers, and not just for the Meadowlands Racetrack, but for Xanadu and the Izod Center as well.”
Caputo and Wagner emphasized the Xanadu project already has at least two interested parties.
“Could there be more?” Wagner asked. “Who are we asking? We should have an open process and request for proposals that gives us the best and brightest ideas. After all, we can lease the racetrack for a $1 at any time. There’s no rush to do that.”
The lawmakers said the state could do the same with the Izod Center.
“Why shouldn’t we bid the operations of the Izod Center?” Caputo asked. “Let’s see if a management group can make it and the Prudential Center work in harmony.”
Caputo and Wagner said New Jersey has a responsibility to consider every idea to support Atlantic City casinos while also supporting the state’s entire gaming industry, retaining and expanding the money it generates and keeping that revenue in New Jersey.
“But we also have a responsibility to ensure this is something supported by the public,” Caputo said. “They should have the right to decide, for instance, whether the state should be given authority do so something as wide-ranging and unprecedented as taking over parts of Atlantic City.”
The legislators said they would work to develop legislation that would implement the concepts.
“We should go out in this economic climate and have open proposals for all interested parties and develop plans that make sense,” Wagner said. “Every idea should be given its chance and be given a full public debate.”