A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would make Atlantic City’s casino industry more competitive by creating a pilot program to allow smaller, boutique casinos to redevelop blighted areas within the resort was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 32-2.

The bill, S-1866, would authorize the State’s Casino Control Commission to create a pilot program to offer two new classifications for casino licensure by the State’s Casino Control Commission. Along with the traditional, 500-room capacity, minimum 60,000 square foot casinos, developers would now have the option of building a small-scale casino facility, which would have not more than 24,000 square feet of casino space and not less than 200 qualified sleeping units.

Developers would also have the option of building a staged casino facility with not more than 34,000 square feet of casino space, and not less than 200 sleeping units – with the requirement that they expand to the 500-room requirement within five years of licensure. For every 100 rooms over 200 that is added, a staged facility would be able to increase their casino space by 10,000 square feet, for a maximum of 54,000 square feet before they hit the 500-room capacity mark. If the casino does not meet the 500-room expansion deadline within five years, it would see its casino space reduced.

Under the pilot program, one small-scale casino facility would be licensed, and one staged casino facility would be licensed.

“When we introduced this bill earlier this year, Hard Rock announced plans to invest in a phased-in casino project in the resort,” said Senator Whelan. “During the current economic crisis, it’s next to impossible for casino developers to come up with the multi-billion dollar investment to create a true mega-resort in Atlantic City. But if we can lower the investment threshold, we will see more investors like Hard Rock come out of the woodwork and invest private capital into Atlantic City.”

“We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity to invest in the Atlantic City market,” said Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International. “We look forward to the legislative process moving forward. We’d like to thank Senator Whelan for sponsoring this forward-thinking bill, and Senate President (Stephen M.) Sweeney for putting it up for a vote.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration before going to the Governor to be signed into law.

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