Gov. Chris Christie said Monday night he will sign an Atlantic City rescue package on Tuesday morning to help save the nation's second-largest gambling market from its four-year decline.
The governor plans to sign bills creating a state-supervised tourism district with enhanced police patrols and sanitation, and a multi-million dollar industry-funded marketing campaign to promote the resort. He also will sign a bill to relieve the city's 11 casinos of some regulations.
The bills are designed to help Atlantic City recover some of the market share and revenue it has been steadily losing since late 2006 when the first of many neighboring slots parlors opened in the Philadelphia suburbs. Since then, Atlantic City has lost nearly a third of its business, plunging from $5.2 billion in casino revenue in 2006 to $3.6 billion last year.
Several casino executives contacted Monday night declined comment, saying they did not want to upstage the governor. But the industry has supported the measures.
Word that Christie plans to sign the package came on the same day he signed two bills into law expanding the options for horse racing bets in the Garden State.
One sets up exchange wagering, a form of betting popular in Europe in which two or more people place directly opposing wagers on the outcome of a horse race. Exchange wagering allows a bettor to wager on a selected outcome occurring, and another bettor to wager on that same outcome not occurring.
Another bill allows tracks to provide for a single pool for each running or harness horse race. These larger pools would be capable of handling a greater variety of wagers than current pools.
Christie said the bills will help ensure "a strong, independent, self-sufficient horse racing industry in New Jersey."
"We are providing new tools to help the industry implement new strategies, generate additional revenue and capitalize on interest in horse racing around the state," the governor said. "Along with our ongoing efforts to transform racing at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park through private management, these measures will place horse racing on a path to economic stability and sustainability without public subsidy that New Jersey taxpayers can simply no longer afford."
The bills were part of the legislative give-and-take over how much state help should go to New Jersey's casino and horse racing industries, which have long fought each other for gambling dollars and market share.