Lawmakers advance plan to poll voters on building North Jersey casinos

 Legislative leaders have agreed to a path that could lead to a ballot question on whether the state should allow two casinos in North Jersey. Right now, casinos are limited to Atlantic City. (AP file photo)

Legislative leaders have agreed to a path that could lead to a ballot question on whether the state should allow two casinos in North Jersey. Right now, casinos are limited to Atlantic City. (AP file photo)

New Jersey lawmakers have reached agreement on a compromise aimed at letting voters decide whether casino gambling should be expanded to the northern part of the state.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto said the deal would give existing casino operators in Atlantic City six months to propose North Jersey casinos — with a minimum $1 billion investment to build. If that doesn’t happen, any interested company could seek the new licenses.

“I don’t care who builds them as long as they get built in the right size and in a timely fashion,” said Prieto, D-Hudson.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo Monday called it an historic agreement.

“We’re going to be able to do something positive for Atlantic City, something positive for state,” said Caputo, D-Essex. “We hope to save the gaming business in New Jersey, we hope to help our seniors, and also bring about non-gaming development for Atlantic City that’s desirable.”

The measure will be a top priority for the new legislative session that begins Tuesday, vowed Senate President Steve Sweeney.

“There’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “We still got to get the voters to agree to it, and, right now, I don’t think the voters are high on gaming.”

The proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by a three-fifths majority in the Senate and Assembly to be on this November’s ballot.

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