A Massachusetts billionaire could torpedo Atlantic City once and for all

Why paddle around with the little fish when you can swim with the big ones?

That seems to be the calculation made by venture capitalist Paul Fireman, the founder and former CEO of Reebok. While Las Vegas and Connecticut casino developers duke it out over the greater Boston casino and the statewide repeal fight, the Massachusetts billionaire has set his sights on a much more lucrative option: Building a luxurious, high-rise gambling palace on the banks of the Hudson River in Jersey City across from the new World Trade Center in Manhattan.

 

Fireman, who heads up Waltham-based Fireman Capital Partners, has been working hard in the Garden State making his pitch for the $4.6 billion Liberty Rising casino complex.  The New York Times  describes the project this way:

“Mr. Fireman appears to have thrown a greatest hits of unbuilt projects into a blender – Donald J. Trump’s plan for a Nascar racetrack on Staten Island, a giant Ferris wheel in the New Jersey Meadowlands – with one of the super towers from Manhattan’s emerging Billionaire’s Row and a dollop of gambling to spice it up.”

If the casino gets the green light, it would be the largest construction project in the US and create 25,000 jobs.

When billionaires talk state lawmakers listen, especially when the billionaire in question spreads his money around. Fireman is a known commodity in New Jersey. In 2006, the avid golfer built the Liberty National Golf Course on a former Superfund site. The golf course is next to the proposed casino complex.

The Star Ledger points out that Fireman, a Newton resident, has made campaign donations to a posse of New Jersey politicians, including Gov. Chris Christie ($3,800) and US Sens. Cory Booker ($5,200) and Robert Menendez ($4,400). A slew of state lawmakers have received contributions as have both the Democratic and Republican state committees. Fireman’s son has also made contributions to some of the same politicians. In 2012, Fireman made a $250,000 donation to a Mitt Romney-supporting super PAC.

There’s just one problem with this master plan. Under New Jersey law, the only place where gambling is currently allowed is Atlantic City. That’s proving to be a technicality.  

New Jersey lawmakers appear eager to expedite Atlantic City’s demise by persuading voters to change state law to allow additional casinos outside South Jersey. A ballot question had been planned for 2015. But NJ Spotlight.com reports that with Trump Plaza’s plans to close down its Atlantic City casino at the end of the year, state lawmakers may try to get the question on this November’s ballot.

New Jersey lawmakers are all aflutter at the prospect of a destination resort that they think will surpass the ones in Macau.

“This Paul Fireman guy is the real deal,” state Sen. Raymond Lesniak gushed to the New Jersey Herald. “This is a solid proposal and he’s willing to put the money up for it.”

So far Garden State politicos are doing all the talking about Liberty Rising. The New Jersey media has pursued Fireman with virtually no success at getting him on the record about a project hundreds of miles away from the casino deals being made in his own backyard.

GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

CommonWealth covers the Probation trial closing arguments from three angles: The prosecution, the defense, and the judge. The Globe’s coverage consists of front-page reports on support for House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Beacon Hill and a nuanced Thomas Farragher condemnation of what went on at Probation, along with a Metro-front report on the trial’s closing arguments. The Boston Herald goes heavy on columns; surprisingly, both Peter Gelzinis and Howie Carr don’t think a crime was committed. Meanwhile, DeLeo is front and center at the close of the probation trial, WBUR reports. Jon Keller leaps to DeLeo’s defense, arguing that “there has never been any evidence that DeLeo was capable of criminal conspiracy, as the feds are now claiming, and there is no substantiated allegation that he ever participated in one.”

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BUSINESS/ECONOMY

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EDUCATION

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Boston school officials may recommend converting a struggling Roxbury middle school to a charter school to avoid a state takeover. Meanwhile, a Boston charter school is eyeing an MBTA-owned parcel in Mattapan Square as the potential site for a new school building.

The Atlantic reports: Why poor schools can’t win at standardized testing.

The trustees at Gordon College in Wenham are backing president Michael Lindsay and his controversial stance on gays, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Lynn City Council accepts a legislative solution that will spare the municipality from paying financial penalties for failing to spend a minimum amount on education, the Item reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Mayor Marty Walsh is not happy with the arrival in Boston of the parking space locating app Haystack.

Kayakers and other small craft may be travelling too far out in ocean waters for their own good.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Tewksbury selectmen back off a move to seek a cease-and-desist order against Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline to Dracut, the Sun reports.

California imposes strict water conservation measures that, if violated, can trigger $500 fines, Time reports.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

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