There Will Be Blood: North vs. South

“We laughed together, we stood together

We were almost one

then that fatal day you changed on me,

now the war has begun

I take a look in your eyes, I don’t like what I see.”

                 (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Soundtrack Lyrics: Sworn Enemy)

I was born in Delaware. City life was in the north. In the south there were predominately beaches and farms. Sound familiar? The two areas never got along well with each other. During the Civil War, the south wanted to secede and the northern area did not. The capitol, Dover, was in the middle where the warring parties gathered to fight their battles.

We have a battle today in Trenton between the north and the south. The stakes are gigantic with large sums of money involved: gaming and the future of Atlantic City vs. gaming and the future of the Meadowlands.  Powerful people, including casino executives, politicians, and entrepreneurs who want a piece of the action or to deny a region a piece of the action, have big stakes in the results. The little guy is like roadkill.  I can already hear the ominous soundtrack of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There will be winners and losers, and there will be blood.

According to the Statehouse Bureau as reported on Sunday in the Press of Atlantic City, Gov. Christie and  Senate President Sweeney are coming closer to agreement on Atlantic City. The sticking point, Sweeney said, is semantics: “I want a private-public partnership, not public-private.” Sweeney heads the Senate and the powerful bloc of South Jersey lawmakers. Casino executives, of course, are fiercely protective of their turf and oppose gaming expansion in the north.

Other players representing Atlantic City include Sen James Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor, who introduced a bill designed to make it easier for companies to build smaller casinos. John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem) says we need to ensure “that our gaming, sports and horse racing industries continue to have a viable future, built around the strong backbone of Atlantic City.” Union County Sen. Lesniak has introduced a bill to legalize internet gambling in Atlantic City, which would require federal approval.

But Assembly Leader Oliver says, the proposal is unlikely to win immediate broad support in the Legislature. There are equal numbers of northern New Jersey legislators that have strong feelings about the potential of the Meadowlands.”

Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) have stated, “Gov. Chris Christie should reject any plan that has the state shed itself of the Meadowlands race track.” Wagner said “video lottery terminals could generate $700 million annually in state revenue and create up to 2,000 new jobs.” Caputo is a member of the committee which will review the gaming commission’s report. Sen. Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D- Middlesex) has co-sponsored S638 which would install more than 5,000 lottery games using VTL’s at or adjacent to the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Sen. Budget Chair Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) says the governor is pitting the north vs. the south. He supports VTL’s. He has also argued that The Meadowlands needs a world-class casino – not just a “racino” with video lottery terminals.” Sports Authority Chairman Carl Goldberg has said the Meadowlands would be the most valuable parcel of real estate for the expansion of gaming, maybe not only in the U.S., but the world.”

Christie and Sweeney support the southern plan, but the northern axis also has a large block. The saga will continue again in mid-September with a legislative gaming committee meeting at the Meadowlands. Ultimately there will be compromises, but with so much at stake I can hear the chainsaw soundtrack swelling.  There will be blood.

P.S. I was born in northern Delaware and live in northern New Jersey.

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