Play tough with East Coast casinos

New Jersey's newly revamped Casino Control Commission now faces its first deal test of its ability to keep the East Coast's only legalized gambling halls operating strictly within the spirit and letter of the law. The state's Division of Gaming Enforcement has recommended that Bally Manufacturing Corporation, the world's biggest maker of slot machines and operator of one of Atlantic City's major casinos, be denied permanent licenses to do business there. Bally currently is operating on a temporary license which expires in November.

A two-year investigation into Bally's operations in New Jersey, Nevada, and elsewhere turned up evidence of a pattern of long-standing organized-crime ties to top officials in the corporation. The state probe found that Bally's executives continued to associate with reputed mobsters even after being warned against doing so. Moreover, one key stockholder refused to be questioned by investigators.

Bally officials, who deny any wrongdoing, should be given every opportunity to present their case before open hearings of the Casino Control Commission. But similar allegations against other casino license applicants are waiting to be cleared up, and a cloud of suspicion is still not completely removed from the Casino Control Commission itself after its previous vice-chairman was implicated in the FBI's Abscam investigation. So it is imperative that the four new members of the commission demonstrate a strong determination to do more than simply pay lip service to strict law enforcement.

It will take tough, hard-nosed regulation to convince the public now that New Jersey is truly serious about keeping the criminal element out of Atlantic City's growing gambling industry.

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