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.
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
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