Aerial Atlantic City Skyline

Aerial view of the Atlantic City skyline, where four casinos closed last year due to ongoing economic troubles. 

The head of a North Jersey chamber of commerce called Friday for all “South Jersey business leaders” to support the November state referendum legalizing casinos outside Atlantic City, but that appeal didn’t appear to do much to sway sworn opponents.

The president and CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber, Jim Kirkos, released an open letter and statement asking other business groups around the state to back the vote allowing two casinos to open at least 75 miles north of Atlantic City.

Kirkos’ chamber “believes that New Jersey as a whole must come first regarding the casino referendum. We want our peer organizations to adopt the same policy,” he said, in part of the prepared statement.

If the casino referendum passes, The Meadowlands area is widely expected to be the location for one of the state’s two northern casinos. Jersey City is the other favorite, most observers say.

Kirkos’ letter quoted comments from “elected officials in New York (who) announced they would ‘not stand for’ New Jersey introducing casinos in the northern part of the state,” on the grounds that those casinos would “infringe” on casinos in New York. He said both Pennsylvania and New York are taking gambling dollars from New Jersey because this states limit casinos to Atlantic City.

“So I would say to my colleagues in South Jersey, are you aligned with the interests of (New York and Pennsylvania), or the state of New Jersey?” the letter added later.

But the head of at least one peer chamber wasn’t buying those arguments from the Meadowlands group.

“We would dispute a lot of things that are said in this letter. We also have stated our position clearly about opposition to casinos in North Jersey,” said Joe Kelly, the president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. “We’re not supporting a North Jersey effort ... and we’ve got very good reasons for the positions we’ve taken.”

Kelly’s chamber is part of an opposition group called No North Jersey Casinos. And the president of that coalition is Debra DiLorenzo, who’s also president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, based in Voorhees.

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