Fear And Concern In AC?

Published: April 27, 2010 04:38 pm EDT

The Press of Atlantic City, which carries water for the casino industry in the New Jersey ocean resort city, had a most unusual headline this past Saturday


Over a story written by Juliet Fletcher, the paper’s Statehouse Bureau reporter, the headline read, 'Some fear power of new Christie panel on gaming in New Jersey.'

This is a new sentiment to be expressed anywhere near the boardwalk or its environs, and certainly in Trenton, the state capital, where the casinos are firmly entrenched with powerful friends in the New Jersey legislature.

What possibly could cause fear in those circles? The 800-pound gorilla turns out to be the state advisory commission appointed by new Gov. Chris Christie to report to him on gaming and racing in the state, their problems, and suggestions for improving them.

The specific scare is the fact that last Tuesday that commission acknowledged it was working with a group headed by the former head of Harrah’s in Atlantic City to study the $600 million offer to put 5,000 video slots in the Meadowlands and take over management of the track. The concern is that the group answers directly to the governor, and the Press story said, “some lawmakers worry that the commission may be moving too quickly, and wielding too much power.”

According to the story, a spokesman for the governor’s office said the advisory commission was not bound by either the Open Public Records Act or open-meeting laws. Jon Hanson, a former head of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority that runs the Meadowlands, now heads the governor’s advisory commission, and he refused to provide a copy of the commission’s executive summary of its report to the Press, saying “It’s not a public document yet.”

An encouraging sign for harness racing was prominent mention in the story of the name of Mike Gulotta, a former Wall Street star and now major harness racing figure in New Jersey.

(Harness Tracks of America)