CARLSTADT, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Casinos, hotels, a convention center and a monorail could be on the horizon at New Jersey’s Meadowlands.
That’s the plan business leaders laid out Tuesday to transform the area into a multi-venue entertainment district.
The plan includes a 250,000-square-foot casino, 1 million-square-foot convention center and about 20,000 parking spots, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell posted on Twitter.
Jim Kirkos, head of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the goal isn’t to build a new Atlantic City. He and others say the upside is huge, given the millions of people within a short drive.
They also point to the restarting of the American Dream megamall project and the transformation of Meadowlands Racetrack as signs that the complex is on the rebound.
“The casino component for us is just a small component of the overall entertainment mix that’s at the complex,” Kirkos said. “Part of the casino tax that would be generated from the product up here could go directly to Atlantic City.”
When commenting on the traffic impact, Kirkos acknowledged the concerns.
“We realize that to achieve this long-run, we still need to focus on mobility and transportation items, and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Business leaders said they’re confident they would find an investor for the project that would cost more than $1 billion, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
Recently, there has been more talk of allowing casino gambling outside of Atlantic City, where casinos have been struggling. A recent poll showed residents are split, with 50 percent opposing opening casinos outside Atlantic City and 42 percent in favor.
A referendum would have to be placed on the November 2015 ballot to allow casinos up north and voters would have to approve the Meadowlands plan, Sloan reported.
Gov. Chris Christie has said he will give Atlantic City five years to show serious signs of improvement before he will consider asking voters to approve casinos elsewhere in the state. That clock started ticking with the February 2011 enactment of a state-administered tourism district in Atlantic City.
On Tuesday a state senator said he’ll push for a constitutional amendment to allow slot machines at the state’s four horse racing tracks.
Republican Joe Pennacchio’s proposal would have a consortium of casinos run the new machines. Profits would be divided among that group, the state government and a fund to bring infrastructure and entertainment enhancements to Atlantic City.
Pennacchio wants the state’s 50 percent share of profits to help fund pensions for public workers.
The constitutional amendment would require voter approval if it’s advanced by lawmakers.
Pennacchio’s proposal comes as the Gaming Enforcement Division gives final approval for Atlantic City’s Showboat Casino Hotel to shut down on Aug. 31.
Division Director David Rebuck signed an order Monday night authorizing the Showboat to shut down at 4 p.m. on Aug. 31.
It’s one of three Atlantic City casinos closing in the next few weeks.
Revel will close its hotel Sept. 1 and its casino Sept. 2, and Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16.
One Bergen County resident told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan that a local casino would be enough to get her to stop going to her favorite New York casino.
“It would be closer. I live in Lyndhurst. It would only be a hop, skip, and a jump,” Michele Toulon said.
Kirkos said the end result could bring between 30 to 40-million people to the area each year.
“I can tell you, New Jerseyans are ready to get out of their cars and take the train and the train at the sports complex is a game changer,” he said.
Some residents aren’t too happy.
“I think they should do something with Atlantic City first. Straighten out that problem down there before they sink money into this,” Rutherford resident, Lee Staunton said.
Supporters say that if a referendum got on a ballot and was approved by voters ‘racinos’ could start showing up at the Meadowlands within a few months of the legislation.
The complex would cost several-billion dollars to build, but business leaders say their projections show that billions in revenue would come in several years later.
The referendum legislation still needs the approval of the Senate President who is from southern New Jersey.
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