New Jersey State Sen. Chris Brown asked Gov. Phil Murphy to issue an executive order to keep the state’s gambling locations open even if the NJ government shuts down.
Without such an order, Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks would have to close their doors if the shutdown lasts more than seven days.
The need for expediency in this matter is crucial. The New Jersey government will shut down on June 30 if legislators cannot agree on a budget.
What the executive order will do
By law, New Jersey casino commission personnel must be on site to provide oversight at any gambling establishment. A facility cannot accept wagers if one of these employees is not present at all times.
The order would designate state employees at the casinos and racetracks as “essential employees.” Under state law, employees with this designation are allowed to continue work even through a government shutdown.
Typically, this designation would be for state employees that are essential for security or safety, such as police and firefighters. However, with all the changes occurring in New Jersey regarding gambling, Brown likely sees a shutdown as a particularly untimely idea.
New Jersey is very busy with gambling right now
New Jersey is buzzing with gambling activity right now. The first reason for this buzz is undoubtedly the debut of NJ sports betting.
After the state’s triumphant Supreme Court victory on May 14, lawmakers and facility operators have been scrambling to open sportsbooks as quickly as possible.
The first two sites, Monmouth Park Racetrack and Borgata in Atlantic City, opened their books for business June 14.
Ocean Resort, for its part, has already pledged to open a sportsbook in its new facility from day one. The new casino has the space under construction, but according to statements in front of the Casino Control Commission on June 21, the facility will operate a temporary facility for six weeks.
Given that the new state regulations about sports betting give casinos nine months to build a permanent sportsbook, there are likely more bits of construction and activity coming soon.
In fact, four other properties have already committed to opening sportsbooks by the end of summer 2018.
A shutdown has the potential to be devastating
So, Brown’s concerns are valid. A shutdown at this moment of growth would be quite untimely, especially with the thought of two major casinos shutting down just days after their grand openings.
As a backup plan, Brown is also working on legislation that would accomplish the same goal. However, the legislation would have to pass through the NJ Assembly and Senate and receive Murphy’s signature to become law.
Brown’s worry crystallized after New Jersey’s shutdown in 2006. The shutdown occurred during the July Fourth holiday and robbed casinos of one of their busiest times of the year.
Atlantic City casinos alone contribute an estimated $3.1 million to state coffers every single day. A state already saddled with budget problems can ill-afford to have that source dry up.