With the announcement by Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, that the next Democratic gaming summit hearing will not take place until the middle of September, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, asked whose interests Sen. Whelan was most interested in serving ? the Democrat Party or the people who live and work in New Jersey.
Whelan, who is co-chair of the Democrat-only summit committee, said the reason the next hearing will not take place until the end of the summer is because of scheduling conflicts with other members on the panel. Whelan?s announcement comes on the heels of a letter he received on Tuesday from Polistina asking him to cancel any future hearings and ?begin to work in a bi-partisan manner on drafting the necessary legislation required to implement the Hanson Report.?
?The excuse given for delaying the next gaming hearing clearly demonstrates that Senator Whelan and his Democratic colleagues are more interested in getting face time in a public forum than acting on critical public policies that demand immediate attention,? said Polistina. ?It is ridiculous that while Senator Whelan didn?t need Mr. Hanson to appear at last Friday?s hearing to testify about his report, he can?t convene another meeting because some of his members on the committee aren?t available.
?As co-chair, the senator has the power to name replacements for those who may be unavailable. But when your loyalty is divided between working on behalf of the citizens and placating members of your party, then everyone loses,? continued Polistina. ?Valuable time is being wasted by prolonging a summit that has more chaos than substance.
?The future of the gaming industry in New Jersey is in peril, and Senator Whelan can?t muster the leadership to conclude these meetings in a timely manner,? stated Polistina. ?It is obvious that his top priority is not to serve taxpayers, but to prolong the grandstanding. I think it is evident that he should step aside as co-chair.?
The state is anticipating 12 percent less tax revenue from the gaming industry this fiscal year which follows a 25 percent revenue decline in gaming between 2006 and 2009. Increased competition from neighboring states is cited as the primary reason for the industry?s decline, and a new casino is expected to open in September in Philadelphia.
?Finding answers to the challenges faced by the gaming and horse racing industries in New Jersey is complicated and will require bi-partisan cooperation,? commented Polistina. ?Extending the gaming summit only serves to delay the work of the Legislature. When Senator Whelan said he wanted to complete the process by the fall, I thought he meant this year, not 2011. Unless he changes course that seems the more likely timetable.?