By Rick Malwitz
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — Plans to have a floating casino launched from the municipal harbor have been scuttled.
The application by Diamond Casino Cruise of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was withdrawn, according to Harbor Commission Chairwoman Jane Frotton.
The application drew a large number of protesters to the commission meeting last month.
Diamond Cruise Casino had wanted to operate a 180-foot, three-tier boat out of the harbor. The boat could transport more than 300 passengers two times daily year-round beyond the 3-mile state limit to gamble and drink.
An additional hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 14.
During the July meeting a number of residents voiced opposition to the plan, saying a casino boat would bring unwanted noise, parking problems, and some unruly behavior from customers.
Following the session, several residents recalled 1999 legislation, signed into law by then-Gov. Christie Whitman, that banned floating casinos from sailing out of and into New Jersey ports, excursions known in the industry as “cruises to nowhere.”
The 1999 bill was sponsored by two state lawmakers whose district included Atlantic City.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office Division of Gaming Enforcement said in July the division received four calls from people inquiring about the legality of the proposal.
Spokeswoman Lisa Spengler said Wednesday that the division was never presented with documentation about the proposal. “We were ready to review any material,” she said. “But, we can’t make a decision without information.”
Federal legislation allows casino boats, which are common along the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. However, federal law permits states to prohibit gambling cruises that “embark and disembark within a state.”
The Royal Princess, a boat with a casino owned by NY Boat Charter, sails for private events from sites in the New York and New Jersey Harbor area. However, the gambling it permits is described on its website as “mock gambling“ that awards gift cards and baseball and Broadway tickets.
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