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Senate Passes Whelan Bill To Keep Casinos & Racetracks Open

TRENTON – The Senate today approved legislation, S1463, sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, to allow casinos, racetracks and simulcasting operations to stay open for up to seven days in the event of a State government shutdown similar to the crisis caused by the July 2006 budget impasse. The vote was 39-0.

“Hopefully, we will never have to implement this proposal, but it’s really a fundamental economic necessity for the people of Atlantic City,” said Senator Whelan. “We have to be prepared, based on what we faced two years ago, to have a system in place to keep the casinos open.”

State statutes currently require State overseers of the casinos to be onsite to maintain the integrity of their operations, but the Whelan proposal would authorize the Casino Control Commission to sanction internal controls to enable casino gaming to continue for seven consecutive calendar days during a government shutdown.

As amended, the New Jersey Racing Commission would be authorized to adopt similar regulations to allow State racetracks to also remain open during government shutdowns.

“I believe the casino industry realizes the stakes are so great that they will make sure they police themselves properly,” Senator Whelan said. “And, the legislation is crafted to ensure that only the most basic casino operations continue.”

Senator Whelan said the overriding impetus to enact the legislation is to ensure that the economic devastation to Atlantic City witnessed in the prime of the summer season of early July of 2006 never recurs.

“This is prime time for Atlantic City, not only for the casinos themselves, but for all the related industries, the restaurants and the support workers who live off their tips and make their Christmas spending money in July,” Senator Whelan said.

Legislative leaders maintain there is little chance that the Senate, Assembly and Governor Corzine will deadlock on adopting a State budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But when a deadlock ensued two years ago, it triggered a constitutional mandate to shut down government operations except those staffed by essential state employees.

“This legislation will fix the barn roof while the sun shines,” said Senator Whelan. “It’s a sensible precaution with sufficient safeguards to protect the State’s interests while maintaining a vital segment of our State’s economy,” Senator Whelan said.

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