Regarding the debate on expanding casino gaming into North Jersey:

Although I understand the local desire to keep gaming restricted to Atlantic City, the continued growth of neighboring competition is almost inevitable, as is the likelihood of gaming expansion to North Jersey.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, has said he believes the expansion of gaming in North Jersey should include dedicated revenue to enhance the continued redevelopment of Atlantic City. He suggests a figure of $100 million. I do not know what an appropriate figure is, but I agree that any proposal for the expansion of gaming outside of Atlantic City must provide a concrete plan to stabilize employment (including benefits), property values and taxes of Atlantic City, with a portion of any funding going to Atlantic County communities, most of which share in Atlantic City's suffering.

One idea would be taxing casino revenue earned in North Jersey at rates comparable to those in neighboring states. Pennsylvania taxes casino revenue at 55 percent, and New York's new casinos will be taxed at rates from 60 percent to 69 percent. If Atlantic City's rate is left at 8 percent (9.25 percent with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority obligation), and other casinos were taxed at 50 percent, there should be plenty of additional revenue to shore up Atlantic City and Atlantic County and to significantly increase state gaming revenue.

The higher taxes in neighboring states have not stopped gaming companies from investing there. Companies that stay in Atlantic City or develop new facilities there will still benefit from the much lower tax rates.

The key is that any additional revenue targeted to Atlantic City must be invested in projects and amenities that improve it as a true resort destination and not just as a means of plugging a bloated municipal budget.

As everyone in Atlantic City knows, you can't fight against the tide forever, and the best course is to work with it and get on top of the wave. Now is the time to make sure Atlantic City is not left behind when the new wave of gaming comes to New Jersey.

JIM CARROLL

Galloway Township

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