Former NJ Governor Rides Casino Bus to Pennsylvania to Make a Point

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Nov 11, 2010  |  Updated 11:23 PM EDT
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New Jersey Gambling competition?

New Jersey Gambling competition?

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The explosion of gambling casinos from New York to Delaware is giving Atlantic City a run for its money.

And it is enough to get former Governor and still State Senator Dick Codey onto a casino bus to Pennsylvania.

That would be the Mount Airy Casino bus that runs three times a week from Montclair through Clifton, Passaic and Wayne.

Roughly a dozen buses a week snake through North Jersey out to Mount Airy, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the Philadelphia area, New Jersey gamblers are forsaking Atlantic City for brand new casinos right across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.

And at the Yonkers Race track in New York, the four-year-old Empire City casino (slots only, though electronic table games are coming soon), 11 percent of their customers come from New Jersey, according to Marketing Director Ryan Murphy.

The big picture is that the casino industry in the Northeast is becoming homegrown, so to speak.

"Gaming is becoming heavily localized so people are starting to understand they don't have to travel so far, particularly here in the New York Metropolitan area," said Murphy.

For Codey, that means New Jersey is leaving some $400 million in revenue on the table according to his estimate.

"We are missing out on millions and millions of dollars for our economy and letting other states take it," Codey said.

Codey is pushing for slots at the Meadowlands track next to the stadium where the Jets and Giants play.

"That's what it's all about, convenience in terms of location," Codey said.

But the casinos of Atlantic City, based on past press accounts, have been bitterly fighting -- successfully so far -- any expansion of gambling in the Garden State.

They fear gamblers like Nancy Biedrzycki of Passaic.

When asked if she would go to the Meadowlands if slots were there, she replied that she would "'Cuz it's convenient for me."

Atlantic City's problem, though, is that we didn't catch her on her way there. She was getting on the same Mt. Airy bus Governor Codey was on.

Codey's other concern is for New Jersey's horse racing industry.

For years, it has been teetering on the brink, dependent on a multi million dollar purse subsidy from the casinos that they have said they no longer want to pay.

Codey said slots at the track would help pay to keep the horse racing industry healthy, while keeping gambling money in-state.

As for Atlantic City, he said "Pardon the pun, but they've(already) lost the monopoly."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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