Friday, May 27, 2016

North Jersey lawmaker proposes slots at Atlantic City International Airport (KACY)

Kathryn's Report:

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP A North Jersey lawmakers is hoping that travelers at Atlantic City International Airport will soon be able to try their luck while waiting for their flights.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace, a Democrat from Bergen County, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines at the Egg Harbor Township airport. The bill was introduced on May 19. No date has been set for a hearing on the proposal before the Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. The proposal was meet with criticism from officials, including a South Jersey Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners member who did even know about the plan.

In order for the proposal to become law, the legislature would have to approve it and then send it to voters in a referendum.

“This would be a revenue creator,” Eustace said Wednesday.

The airport is a little over 10 miles from downtown Atlantic City. The proposal comes as voters around the state are set to vote in November on expanding gaming outside of Atlantic City.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority, the operators of Atlantic City International Airport, declined to comment on the proposal. In 2015, the airport had 1,089,277 scheduled passengers, while in 2014, the airport had 1,082,206 scheduled passengers, according to authority records.

The proposal leaves many key aspects up to lawmakers, including the number of slot machines and how the revenue from the machines is distributed.

Slot machines are only permitted in two Nevada airports: Reno-Tahoe International and McCarran International in Las Vegas. Over the years, several states have floated proposals to bring slots to O’Hare and Midway airports, Indianapolis International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and others.

“This is the first that I’m hearing about it,” said James “Sonny” McCullough, township mayor and a member of the South Jersey Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners. “I think that it’s a terrible idea.”

Anthony Marino, an independent transportation analyst and former Atlantic City Expressway executive, said that over the years he has heard talks of slots machines at the airport.

“Every once and a while you see someone float a trial balloon,” Marino said. “As for creating revenue, I just don’t see it. Most of the people who are using the airport are locals going on vacation. If they want gamble they will go to Atlantic City.”

Under the plan, slot machines would be located beyond the security checkpoint, Eustace said.

“You are not going to have people coming to the airport just to play slots, this is going too specifically for people using the airport,” Eustace said. “This will give someone waiting for a flight a chance to pass time, while creating revenue.”

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