Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Jersey Ups Ante to Keep Gambling Cash out of Politics SEPARATION OF CASINO AND STATE

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Jersey Ups Ante to Keep Gambling Cash out of Politics SEPARATION OF CASINO AND STATE

Article excerpt

The gambling industry is all about money. Lots of it. And New Jersey is setting itself up as the state most determined to keep casinos' cash out of political coffers.

As the industry has raised the stakes, with gross revenues nationwide soaring from $10 to $48 billion in the past 20 years, New Jersey has stepped up the pressure accordingly. A state law that bans contributions to state or local political candidates or parties from any casino employee or agent acting on their behalf is among the toughest. And the state is considering making the law even tougher.

New Jersey is at the forefront of a growing movement in the United States. In a time when more states are dipping a toe into the casinos' cash currents, more attention is being paid to the issues of casinos and politics, and many states are entering the same legal and ideological struggle that New Jersey has waged for two decades. "Clearly, the casino industry's ability to pour huge amounts of money into the political process poses harm to citizen confidence in the integrity of government," said Dennis Jaffe, executive director of New Jersey Common Cause. That concern led to a recent hearing held by the Casino Control Commission to consider further tightening laws. The proposed law would expand the scope of the ban to include others, including lobbyists, who have a tangential connection to the casino industry. And, as Mr. Jaffe notes, "A huge amount of casino money is spent on lobbying." Some $2.5 million was spent on such lobbying in New Jersey between 1992 and 1995. And while the contributions are legal, experts say many New Jerseyans put casinos in a separate category from other businesses, and are wary of mixing gambling and politics. "It's not quite a vice, but it kind of borders on that," says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "It's something that society, or at least people of New Jersey, have agreed to tolerate. But there's also a feeling that, at least morally, it's not the most praiseworthy activity and should be cordoned off." Indeed, when Gov. …

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