- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey voters will not be asked this November to decide whether to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City.

Senate President Steve Sweeney confirmed in a telephone interview the clock on the procedural calendar ran out on Tuesday, meaning the referendum will not be on the ballot this year.

The development comes after Sweeney earlier expressed skepticism about a plan introduced in the Assembly to expand gambling to Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties, saying he preferred a more deliberative process before putting the question to voters. While he has indicated support for northern New Jersey gambling, Sweeney has also called for a plan to help Atlantic City, which is struggling economically and saw four casinos close in 2014.

“I said all along there needed to be a public discussion,” Sweeney said. “What we want to make sure is if there is an expansion, Atlantic City is taken care of.”

Legislators must pass a bill by Aug. 3 for the issue to be on November’s ballot. Such a provision must sit for 20 days in each chamber after introduction. That put the deadline for introduction on Tuesday.



“Just do the math,” Sweeney said.

Democratic Assemblyman Ralph Caputo supported a bill to expand gambling in northern New Jersey and said he expected the issue would not be on the ballot since his provision did not advance in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. But he is not resigned to defeat.

“It is what it is,” Caputo said. “Meaning we’re not going to give up on this issue. … It’s going to be back on the agenda.”

The issue of expanding gambling in the state has been around for years, but has gained increased attention recently because the industry is flagging in Atlantic City and neighboring states have opened competing outlets. But legislators cannot agree on how many and where exactly the casinos should be located.

After Caputo and fellow Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji introduced their measure calling for three casinos in Bergen, Essex and Hudson in June, other legislators began calling for gambling in their areas as well. Another bill proposes a referendum authorizing two new casinos in the northern part of the state and one in central New Jersey. That would mean Monmouth Park racetrack would be considered for a casino, something officials there have long sought.

“That’s why if we have a discussion, I think we will come out with a better solution,” Sweeney said.

The Press of Atlantic City first reported on Sweeney’s pronouncement that expanded gambling would not be on the November ballot.

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