TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Three New Jersey lawmakers want to greatly expand potential locations for new casinos beyond Atlantic City.

Democratic state senators Bob Smith and Linda Greenstein, and Republican senator Kip Bateman, who represent central New Jersey, introduced a bill Monday that would ask voters whether to approve new casinos in the northern and central parts of the state.

One would be located in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, or Union counties. The other would go somewhere in Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, or Warren counties.

"Our part of New Jersey is one of the richest areas in America," Smith said.

The bill expands on a plan introduced last week by three Democratic Assembly members that would authorize up to three new casinos in Bergen, Essex or Hudson counties. Hard Rock and the Meadowlands Racetrack want to create one in East Rutherford, where the NFL's New York Jets and Giants play, and footwear magnate Paul Fireman has proposed an even larger project in Jersey City, directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

And Wednesday afternoon, Newark officials plan to unveil a proposal to locate a casino in the state's largest city.

Voters would need to amend the state constitution in a referendum to permit gambling outside Atlantic City.

Smith said putting three new casinos in a closely-bunched region would create the same problems currently afflicting Atlantic City, where four of the 12 casinos went out of business last year.

"It would be a disaster," he said. "They would out-compete each other. It's not about a favored location; it's about treating different regions of the state fairly."

Smith said the bill does not identify specific locations for new casinos. But adding Monmouth County to the mix would put the Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport in play; borough officials have long wanted to host a casino there.

In order to get a measure on the ballot for this fall, a bill authorizing a referendum would have to be adopted soon; the deadline for ballot measures is Aug. 3.

But state Senate president Steve Sweeney would not say Tuesday whether he will permit either of the bills to advance this year.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC