A bill package sponsored by Senators Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew which would expand State support for the Atlantic City Racetrack and reduce unneeded regulatory bureaucracy for Atlantic City’s casinos was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

 “With recent changes and reforms in how we treat gaming and wagering – not just in Atlantic City, but in the entire State – we have to revisit existing laws and make changes where necessary,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, and chair of the Senate committee. “As our racetracks in central and northern New Jersey move away from casino subsidization, we should invest those funds into the Atlantic City Racetrack, and ensure South Jersey has a world-class racing facility. And we ought to revisit the regulatory needs of casinos, and reduce unnecessary and over-burdensome bureaucracy.”

“These bills are about further expanding South Jersey’s tourism and wagering economy, and making small changes in existing law which will pay off big dividends in terms of gaming revenue and jobs for the people in the region,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “Tourism and wagering are such a vital part of our economy in the southern part of the State, and these bills will ensure a vibrant, active gaming economy for many years to come.”

The first bill in the package, S-1996, would make changes to the Casino Simulcasting Special Fund to provide additional financial support to the Atlantic City Racetrack. Under the bill, 90 percent of the remaining dollars in the Casino Simulcasting Special Fund – made up from money generated by wagers on horse races from out-of-state tracks transmitted to casino simulcast facilities in New Jersey – would be dedicated to support the Atlantic City Racetrack. The funds would be used to make capital improvements, increase live racing days at the track, or supplement purses. The remaining 10 percent in the Special Fund would be used to support Monmouth Park Racetrack and Freehold Raceway.

“For many years, racetracks in central and northern New Jersey have collected the lion’s share of casino simulcasting funds, and Atlantic City’s local racetrack has been an afterthought,” said Senator Van Drew. “Governor Christie and his Administration have worked hard to recruit private operators for Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands racetrack to move these facilities to self-sufficiency. The dollars which were going to those racetracks should be invested locally with the Atlantic City Racetrack.”

“Support for our the Atlantic City Racetrack is long overdue, and could serve to diversity the gaming product offered in Atlantic City,” said Senator Whelan. “There’s no question that the proud tradition of racing at the Atlantic City Racetrack should be preserved into the 21st Century. By expanding State support for the racetrack, we can boost the facility and help transform the Atlantic City Racetrack into the sort of top-notch facility that Atlantic City and South Jersey racing enthusiasts deserve.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 4-1.

The second bill in the package, S-2767, would reduce the membership of the Casino Control Commission, from five members to three members. Under the bill, if there is a vacancy on the Commission on the effective date of the bill, the vacant seat would be eliminated. If there are more than three members sitting on the Committee on the effective date of the bill, seats would be eliminated at the end of members’ terms in order to let people serve out their time on the Commission.

Senator Whelan noted that with recent casino deregulation laws that have been enacted and with a shift in the oversight responsibilities of casino gaming from the Casino Control Commission to the Division of Gaming Enforcement in the Attorney General’s Office, the Commission no longer needs five members to regulate operations at Atlantic City gaming establishments.

“As we move to reduce overly burdensome regulation on Atlantic City’s casinos and modernize casino oversight, there’s simply no way the State can continue to justify the need for a five-member Casino Control Commission,” said Senator Whelan. “Members of the Casino Control Commission enjoy salaries and perks paid for by the casinos themselves, but with laws enacted earlier this year, there’s no longer a need for duplicative and largely bureaucratic positions at the Commission. This bill would save regulatory dollars while making New Jersey a friendlier business environment for new casino developers to build in Atlantic City.”

The bill was unanimously approved.

Both bills now head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for review before going to the full Senate for consideration.