You've probably heard about state Senate President Stephen Sweeney's proposal to put casinos in New Jersey's struggling cities. The story about Sweeney pitching casinos for Camden, Newark or Jersey City a week ago made national news.

Online comment sections lit up. By the next day, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said he'd welcome casinos to his town. On Monday, The Record in Bergen County, long a supporter of gaming in the Meadowlands, editorialized against the plan.

The truth - and the good news for Atlantic City - is that Sweeney made no such proposal. There is no such plan.

Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Camden, came to Pleasantville to meet with The Press editorial board. The top thing on his mind was that state officials need to stop talking about expanding casino gaming and concentrate on giving Atlantic City every chance to succeed.

He said he was frustrated by the Assembly Gaming Committee's approval of a resolution to begin studying the possibility of gaming outside of Atlantic City and by statements made by Gov. Chris Christie in December that the resort has only one more year to prove itself.

Sweeney said the governor's timeline is off, and he reaffirmed his commitment to give the city five years from the creation of the Tourism District in February 2011 before considering any expansion of gaming.

Talking about expansion before then only hurts investment in Atlantic City, he said, but North Jersey interests have pushed for gaming at racetracks since the legislation was signed.

Then he added, "If we're going to open up gaming down the road, why would I limit it to the Meadowlands or Monmouth Park? Why wouldn't I open it up to wherever the market would take it, whether it be Newark or Jersey City or Camden, or whatever other community would benefit from building a from-the-ground-up casino hotel?

"Again, the focus has to be Atlantic City right now, doing everything we can do to help Atlantic City."

That's what The Press reported. That's what the Associated Press reported, based on our story. But, paraphrasing being what it is, it's not what people read. Instead, the idea grew that Sweeney was pushing for casinos in urban areas.

So what point was Sweeney trying to make? Maybe he was trying to get North Jersey legislators to back off with an implied threat of bypassing their racetracks in any future expansion of gaming. Maybe he was laying out a delaying strategy. After all, New Jersey voters have previously rejected the idea of building casinos throughout the state.

He certainly wasn't trying to start a discussion that would distract the state from doing everything it can to help Atlantic City succeed. Because he's right: Atlantic City's success is vital to the entire state, and talk of expanding casino gaming - whether it's to North Jersey racetracks or struggling urban areas - just gets in the way.


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