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ATLANTIC CITY – Democratic leaders said the first meeting of the gaming summit held today at the Atlantic City Convention Center demonstrated the need to go beyond the Hanson Commission’s report to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of the state’s gaming, sports and entertainment industries.

“Today’s testimony demonstrated that while the Hanson Commission put forward a wish list of proposals, it left a lot to the imagination in terms of how to accomplish them – and that’s where the real work comes in,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “Our first fact-finding meeting gave us an opportunity to hear from stakeholders across the gaming spectrum on how best to move Atlantic City forward. We will now turn our attention to a similar forum on horse-racing, so that in the end, we can develop a real plan that not only promises to revitalize the gaming, sports and entertainment industries, but also includes a roadmap for how to get there.”

“This is the first step in an open process that will examine every facet of the sports, gaming and entertainment industry in New Jersey, one not bound by loyalties to a particular geographic area, but dedicated to the best interests of our state as a whole,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex). “These are not mutually exclusive industries. Together they are the engines that drive our state and they must be examined thoroughly, beyond the elements in the report submitted to the Governor.”

Sweeney and Oliver announced the summit as a means to bring together stakeholders and policy experts to vet the recommendations put forward by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Gaming, Sports and Entertainment and to develop additional proposals aimed at revitalizing the industries. Legislators on the 10-member panel, co-chaired by Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), today heard hours of testimony from public policy and gaming industry experts, as well as business representatives, investors, contractors, and casino employee representatives at the first meeting, dedicated largely to the examination of New Jersey’s casino industry. Horseracing will be discussed at a future meeting to take place in the Meadowlands. A third meeting, to be held in Trenton, is being planned.

“It’s clear that we must develop a plan for Atlantic City that goes well beyond the recommendations of the Hanson Commission. We need to bring in new product offerings to interest tourists, create business incentives to attract investment and offer gaming options that boost our competitive edge – and that’s only half the battle when it comes to ensuring that New Jersey’s overall sports, gaming and entertainment venues thrive,” said Senator Jim Whelan, former mayor of Atlantic City and Chair of the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. “We must also ensure that horseracing in our state remains viable and that jobs in the industry are maintained. As co-chair of this summit, I am committed to developing a comprehensive plan that delivers at both ends of the spectrum.”

“This is a great start to crafting a winning economic blueprint for our state. The gaming and horse racing industries both hold in the balance the livelihoods of thousands of individuals and have a significant bearing on our overall economy,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, Chair of the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee. “It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to hear today from Mr. Hanson, but I look forward to doing so at later hearings. This much is clear – we will not be able to move anything legislatively until we hear from Mr. Hanson, in detail, how he developed his recommendations.”

The other legislators participating in the talks are Senators Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) and Assembly members Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Matthew W. Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).