Legislation Introduced to Benefit AC Casinos during Government Shutdown

by Jim Hall

Atlantic CitySenators have introduced legislation that will help to keep Atlantic City casinos open if another government shutdown occurs.

Just a few days ago, we reported that the state of New Jersey had enacted a government shutdown. Governor Chris Christie was under fire as he had shut down the state parks and beaches during the 4th of July holiday. On the gaming side of things, casinos were worried that they would have to shut their doors if a decision could not be made by legislative officials in regards to the state budget. Issues within the state budget caused the government shutdown to begin with. In three days time, legislators were able to come to an agreement so the shutdown was lifted. However, this brought about the discussion of changing the law in regards to the gaming industry and a government shutdown.

Legal Matters

Currently, legislation states that casinos in Atlantic City can stay open seven days after a government shutdown begins. Once that seven day time period is up, the casinos have to close. This would put 50,000 individuals out of work as well as put a stop to revenue earnings locally as well as regionally. The gaming industry of New Jersey has been on the mend so it would be detrimental to see a shutdown of the gaming venues for any length of time.

To try and stop this issue from coming up again, three members of the senate have created legislation to help. Senators Jeff Van Drew and Jim Whelan along with Steve Sweeney, the Senate President, have created a new measure that would allow the venues to remain open despite a government shutdown.

According to Whelan, the casinos of Atlantic City are a driving force for the economy. With the area making a turn around, forcing the venues to close would be destructive, not only to employees of the casinos but also their families. A shutdown would also create a negative outcome for the city and region as far as the economy is concerned.

The New Bill

The new measure is S 3421 and includes language that would ensure the casinos as well as racetracks of the state have the ability to stay open indefinitely, even if a government shutdown occurs again. The current law was signed in 2006 and gives the venues only seven days to remain open. Of course, this last time a decision was made and the government back in play before the time period is up. However, we all know how legislators can be and a shutdown can last days, weeks or even months.

Without this new law enacted, the gambling industry could be in trouble in the future and a backpedaling could occur. It has taken a few years for the Atlantic City gambling industry to try and get back on their feet and even a few days of all casinos being closed could be extremely harmful.

It is unclear as to if the measure has the ability to succeed and be made into law. Some lawmakers have suggested that the proposal is unnecessary but they do not seem to be looking at the big picture. They view the employees of the casinos and unessential when looking at the government aspect but the casinos bring in money to the state which will be missed no matter how long the venues stay closed.

It will be interesting to see what happens in this case. Will the gaming venues be able to stay open instead of having a set time frame based on the current law? We shall see in the coming weeks if the legislation is moved forward or stopped in its tracks.