EDISON - With several Atlantic City casinos announcing their closures this year, many are wondering about the future of gambling in the Garden State, and are willing to try something new.
For the last four years, Gov. Chris Christie and the South Jersey-based president of the state Senate have watched a plan to save Atlantic City wilt under the pressure of recession and competition.
In 1978, voters agreed to bring casino gambling to New Jersey on the condition that it remain in Atlantic City.
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Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a former casino executive, says it was the right decision for the then-struggling town.
"Gaming was the answer," he says. "And brought them out of a deep problem and it had a tremendous boom."
In the decades since, the run of good luck has ended. "We've hit bottom," says Senate President Steve Sweeney. "Without question. We need more diversity and we're going to create that diversity."
New gaming operations in Pennsylvania and New York have drawn business away from the Jersey Shore city.
With the announcement that Revel would close in September, even the strongest supporters of reviving Atlantic City came to the conclusion that it's time for a new start.
"We are going to work on co-sponsoring legislation to see if we can put a ballot initiative on to put a casino in the northern part of the state," Sweeney says.
To bring gambling north, supporters would have to change the state's constitution. The deadline to get the measure on a November ballot has already passed, so the earliest that could happen would be November 2015.