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PENNSAUKEN, NJ-The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a state agency set up to funnel a percentage of Atlantic City casino profits into redevelopment projects around the state, has okayed a $24-million grant to the developer of a proposed 6,400-seat arena in this Camden County community. The arena would be the centerpiece of a project that would include a conference center and a practice ice rink.

The total cost of the project, which would be developed by George Norcross, III, a local insurance company executive, has been placed in the $65 million range. The Camden County Improvement Authority, which would operate the facility, has proposed a bond issue to cover the rest of the cost.

The project–and the CRDA grant–carry some political overtones, according to critics of the process. Norcross, who would use the arena as a home venue for a minor league hockey team, is a former chairman of the county’s Democratic Party, and a long-time confidant of Gov. James McGreevey. The CRDA, of course, reports to the administration in Trenton.

CRDA distributes funds derived from a 1.25% tax of the casinos’ gross revenues. All such distributions must be approved by a majority vote of the CRDA board, whose members are appointed by the governor.

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