Gov. Christie: Casino expansion plans fail without Atlantic City takeover

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie predicted Thursday that a ballot question to expand gambling to northern New Jersey will be defeated if lawmakers don't approve a state takeover plan of Atlantic City.

Surrounded by charts illustrating Atlantic City's perilous financial situation, Christie said that the state takeover of the seaside gambling resort and a bill to allow alternative tax payments for casinos are the only solutions to save it from collapse.

"Atlantic City is headed for a disaster and North Jersey gaming is headed for a defeat if we don't get our act together," the Republican said. "It's time to stop all the theater."

A referendum to allow two casinos to be opened in the northern part of the state will on November's ballot. Christie said he will oppose the referendum if the Atlantic City measures aren't passed.

The takeover plan has stalled since Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said he won't post a bill to allow the Christie administration to take over city government.

Prieto says he hasn't brought the measure up for a vote because of concerns about union bargaining rights, but Christie said he believes the measure hasn't been called because of political jockeying ahead of next year's gubernatorial election.

Christie says Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, a Democrat and close Prieto ally, wants to hurt Senate President Steve Sweeney, who supports it. Sweeney and Fulop are both likely 2017 candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial bid.

Christie said on his "Ask the Governor" radio show Wednesday night that Fulop is the "puppeteer" behind Prieto. "When you see Vinny Prieto's mouth move, you know Steve Fulop's talking," Christie said.

Fulop's spokeswoman, Jennifer Morrill, said that Christie has a "strange obsession" with Fulop and that the mayor hasn't been involved in the state takeover effort. She said that the Republican governor is trying to "create a distraction from his failures."

"The Governor is a little confused once again, which is becoming more and more frequent unfortunately," Morrill said. "Furthermore, the Governor's strange obsession with Mayor Fulop seems to be clouding his judgment anytime he's near a microphone."

Prieto on Wednesday called for Christie to negotiate a compromise.

"But that would require him to do something he seldom does - his job," Prieto said Wednesday.

Municipal workers in Atlantic City voted Wednesday on a temporary plan to avoid a government shutdown next week, but the vote results were not immediately released. The plan calls for paying city workers every 28 days, instead of every two weeks. It would start on Wednesday next week and end May 6, avoiding a city government shutdown for at least another month and giving lawmakers more time to figure out a long-term solution to Atlantic City's financial woes.

Christie said that the city's plan will only put off the day of reckoning.