(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) on Thursday delivered the following testimony during the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee hearing to discuss the prospect of bringing casino gaming to the Meadowlands:
“I want thank Chairman Ramos for holding this hearing on gaming at the Meadowlands and the great potential it has for the entire North Jersey region.
“As a legislator from Bergen County, a former County Freeholder, and a resident, I know firsthand the benefits and concerns surrounding gaming at the Meadowlands. And I believe that moving forward with gaming is in the best interest of North Jersey and the entire state.
“Earlier this year, New York Governor Cuomo proposed building several casinos just a short ride away from North Jersey. In doing so, he invited our residents to help the New York tourism industry boom, when they could be contributing to the economy of our region. This is on top of the already opened Aqueduct Casino in Queens.
“The reality is that someone living in North Jersey or New York is more likely to visit a casino at the Meadowlands on a regular basis than travel to Atlantic City. This does not mean that we are taking business away from Atlantic City, which we all want to see thriving. Rather, this is about bringing business into the state and tapping into a completely new source of revenue.
“With those additional funds, we can put New Jersey’s economy back on track. We can fund our pension payments, increase school aid, and invest in significant transportation improvements.
“Just a few weeks ago, we completed the annual budget process. This year, as we do every year, we talked about how to raise revenue in New Jersey and considered all options that would help rebound the state’s economy. Bringing gaming to the Meadowlands is one of those options and we must sincerely and thoughtfully explore it.
“In the Assembly, I sit on the Tourism & the Arts Committee. In addition to highlighting the attractions we have for New Jersey residents, our mission is also to entice out-of-state travels to choose New Jersey the next time they plan a trip. A casino at the Meadowlands would undoubtedly be an attraction that would bring new visitors to our state.
“Every winter, New York City is flooded with people from all over the world who come to take in the holiday season sights. In addition to seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center and the Nutcracker, they could go to the Meadowlands, which is less than a half hour from New York City.
“By opening up the Meadowlands to gaming, we would also be introducing North Jersey attractions to many who had never considered spending their leisure time in this area. For example, the Meadowlands is a 15 minute ride away from the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. A day trip to a Meadowlands casino could end with a show at BergenPac and dinner at a local restaurant. This kind of economic activity could help revitalize our business districts, breathing new life into our restaurants, stores, and downtowns. Gaming at the Meadowlands is about more than casinos. It is about economic stimulation, job creation, tourism, and regional development.
“In closing, let me again thank Assemblyman Ramos and the entire Committee for holding this hearing today. This is the start of a very exciting and necessary conversation about bringing gaming to the Meadowlands, which I believe will benefit all of New Jersey.”