TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew which allows casino employees to run for local office was signed into law by Governor Corzine over the weekend.
“Particularly in these tough economic times, we need to be open to including all voices within government, and giving everyone a chance to serve,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Chairman of the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. “In the past, we’ve prohibited casino employees from serving on Atlantic City’s governing body for fear that casinos may exert undue influence on local government. However, with so many local residents working in casinos, and with the City depending so heavily on the economic success of the industry, I think it’s more than time that we remove the prohibitions and allow casino employees to serve their community.”
“Casino workers do not forfeit their constitutional right to representative government when they take a job on the gaming floor,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “In the past, the restrictions on casino employees from holding public office have been overbroad, over-protective and overly burdensome, and no one should be forced to choose between giving back to their communities and providing for their families. By tearing down the barriers keeping casino workers from serving in public office, we are introducing needed diversity into the public discourse in Atlantic City.”
The new law, S-1987, amends the Casino Control Act to eliminate the prohibition on persons employed by a casino and members of their immediate families for running for local office in Atlantic City, provided that they were employed by the casino at the time they took office. The bill stipulates that any employee of a casino who becomes a member of the governing body of Atlantic City would have to consult with the Local Finance Board in the State Division of Local Government Services regarding any potential conflict of interest which may arise as a result of their casino employment. Finally, as an extension of the current prohibition on casinos making campaign contributions for State and local elections in New Jersey, any person working for a casino who runs for local office in Atlantic City would be prohibited from making contributions to their own campaigns.
“The success of Atlantic City and the success of the casino industry are forever linked, for better or worse,” said Senator Van Drew. “The governing body of Atlantic City could benefit from the diverse perspectives and outlooks that casino employees have to offer. Thanks to this new law, casino workers will now be able to bring their talents and life experience to bear in order to benefit all of the people in Atlantic City.”
“In our country, government works best when it includes people from all walks of life,” said Senator Whelan. “Banning people from serving their community simply because of who signs their paychecks is damaging to the integrity of government and contrary to the values of a representative democracy. This law restores the rights of casino workers to contribute their skills and perspectives to public service, and ensures that everyone has a voice in their government.”
The bill was approved by the Senate in November and was given final legislative approval by the Assembly last week.