With the new Aqueduct Casino in Queens drawing lines as long as football fields, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) on Wednesday stressed the need for legislation he is sponsoring that would bring video lottery terminals (VLTs) to the Meadowlands Race Track and let voters decide if they want more gaming in Bergen County.

"We've buried our head in the sand for far too long now and competition has reached our borders," said Caputo. "Aqueduct's smash opening weekend made it clear that there is a market in the North Jersey/New York area for gaming. Unfortunately, New York beat us out of the gate."

Caputo, who serves on the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, is the sponsor of two separate bills (A-2458 and A-2550) that would authorize the installation of the VLT's at the Meadowlands. Both bills would require voter approval at the ballot. He is also the sponsor of a measure (AJR-65) that would explore future prospects for casino gaming in Bergen County, as well as another measure (ACR-169) that would allow voters to determine if casinos should be established in Bergen County.

"I understand the need to support Atlantic City as a gaming destination, but competition has arrived. With the full range of gaming and entertainment options offered at Aqueduct, why would someone from North Jersey or the New York area venture 2-3 hours to Atlantic City on a regular basis if they can take a short train ride to Queens?

"This is about common sense at this point. If anyone still doubts the viability of gaming at the Meadowlands, then we should put it to the voters to decide. If there's overwhelming support at the ballot, then we know the market is there. Not only would gaming at the Meadowlands Race Track help boost our racing industry, but it would keep additional gaming revenue in New Jersey rather than letting New York siphon it off," added Caputo.

Caputo noted that news reports over the weekend claimed lines of patrons stretched longer than football fields and traffic on nearby streets came to a virtual standstill as thousands of gaming enthusiasts descended upon New York City's first legalized gaming racino at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Caputo also pointed out that legislative leaders in New York recently voiced their support for a constitutional amendment to allow slot machines, table games and card games in various locations throughout New York state, possibly even in Manhattan, creating the specter of even further competition for New Jersey.

"We must face the fact that gamblers are already being lured away from Atlantic City and out of the state completely to racinos and other new gaming venues in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware," added Caputo. "We have a responsibility not only to protect Atlantic City casinos, but to also do all we can to support our entire gaming industry, to retain and expand the revenue it generates and, most importantly, to keep that revenue here in New Jersey."