Christie backs Sweeney on northern NJ casino referendum

Gov. Christie says that he backs Senate President Sweeney's referendum for north Jersey casinos.

Gov. Christie says that he backs Senate President Sweeney's referendum for north Jersey casinos. (1/8/16)

TRENTON - Gov. Chris Christie is throwing his support behind Senate President Steve Sweeney's plan for a referendum on expanding casinos to northern New Jersey.

The governor intervened in a nasty standoff between Democratic leaders of the state Legislature, supporting Sweeney's contention that an Assembly bill lacks enough support to pass.

The Senate and Assembly bills differ on who could own the two new casinos, and how much of their gambling tax revenue would go to compensate Atlantic City.

Sweeney’s plan would give Atlantic City operators the first chance to run the casinos. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s plan allows outside developers to have more of a chance to come in.

Christie says lawmakers should "put the ball in the end zone" and pass Sweeney's bill.

Christie agreed with Sweeney, who said earlier Friday that failure to pass a bill Monday would kill the possibility of northern New Jersey casinos.

After the governor’s comments, Prieto put out a statement that said that if Christie "had spent time in New Jersey, he would understand the facts."

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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