By David Madden

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — It’s been debated for years: the idea of expanding casino gambling in New Jersey beyond the borders of Atlantic City.

Now, there’s a proposal in the state legislature that could pave the way for up to three new gaming facilities in the northern part of the state.

Proponents insist the state has to counter competition from Pennsylvania and New York.

“They’re competing with us, and they’re winning,” said Englewood assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “It’s not Atlantic City competing. I want to be clear.  It’s not about North Jersey verses Atlantic City. This is about the future of New Jersey.”

As you might expect, Atlantic City politicians are bracing for a battle royal.

“If you put it up to North Jersey, you’re basically taking more money from Atlantic City and we’re going to have more people laid off,” said assemblyman Vince Mazzeo.

The first step in getting casinos in North Jersey would be changing the state constitution, and that requires a voter referendum. To get it on the November ballot, it must clear the legislature by August 3rd.

Vainieri Huttle concedes a 2016 vote might be more practical.