Calling it crucial for jobs and the survival of weaker casinos, the president of Atlantic City’s largest casino union is urging Gov. Chris Christie to sign New Jersey’s proposed Internet gambling law.
Bob McDevitt, who heads Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, said Internet gambling would help preserve jobs, generate new tax revenue and halt Atlantic City’s six-year revenue decline.
“In the past several years, Atlantic City has suffered as the result of increased competition from neighboring states,” McDevitt said, pointing out that gambling revenues have declined by 40 percent, causing reduced tax revenue for programs that support seniors, and fewer jobs and reduced wages for casino workers. “The Internet gaming bill gives New Jersey the opportunity to change that.”
Christie is facing a deadline next week to sign or veto an Internet gambling bill approved in December by the state Legislature. His office did not immediately return a call Thursday for comment on the governor’s position on the bill.
Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2011, saying then that Internet gambling would have violated New Jersey’s constitution, which restricts casino-style gambling to Atlantic City. Proponents of the new bill say Internet gambling would be constitutional because computers and other equipment needed for online wagering would be located at the casinos or elsewhere in Atlantic City.
Online gambling would allow customers to place Internet bets on slot machines and table games at Atlantic City’s 12 casino hotels. Casino executives say it would be another attraction to bring more tourists to the resort town.
“I think anything that helps to grow the market will be good. It would be another amenity,” said Steve Callender, general manager of Tropicana Casino and Resort.
The Rational Group, parent company of online gambling giant PokerStars, has agreed to buy the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel for an undisclosed amount, a deal seen as a way for the company to get an early jump on New Jersey’s Internet wagering craze if it becomes legal.
McDevitt, citing earlier estimates by analysts, said Internet gambling in New Jersey could generate about $650 million to $850 million in new revenue in the first year and $1.5 billion annually in later years.
“Ultimately, it could generate $1.5 billion in revenue and around $150 million in desperately need tax dollars for New Jersey,” McDevitt said. “We believe that this increased revenue could make the difference between two or more casinos staying open or closing.
“Keeping those casinos open means saving more than 3,000 jobs,” he added. “This bill will allow Atlantic City to compete more effectively, increase tax revenues and save thousands of jobs. I urge Gov. Christie to sign it as soon as possible.”
McDevitt’s union represents about 14,000 casino service workers, including bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks and housekeeping personnel.
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