New Jersey may make a push to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City, according to a story at Politico.
Casinos in northern New Jersey?
Politico reporter Matt Friedman talked with politicians and gaming interests about the possibility of a referendum allowing casinos in northern New Jersey. Senate President Steve Sweeney had tried to get a measure on the ballot for this November, but that didn’t happen.
Politico reports that a referendum is far more likely next year, and Friedman reports that “backers of building casinos in northern New Jersey are planning to spend $10 million to $15 million on advertising to convince a skeptical public to side with them.”
The reason that much money would need to be spent? Because there isn’t much support for more casinos in New Jersey. A majority of New Jersey residents do not favor casino expansion, and under 40 percent favor it. More from Politico:
“From what I see when we do polling, if you simply ask the question, ‘Are you in favor of expanding gambling?’—the immediate reaction is no. Why would we expand gambling because Atlantic City is doing bad? Why add casinos?”Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural said. “But when we say, ‘Would you be in favor at the Meadowlands if we give the state $500 million a year and some of that money would go to help Atlantic City recover and rebuild?’—then it would be a positive.
“The key to us to get the referendum passed is to get the message out,” Gural said. “If we can’t get the message out, it will lose.”
Other stumbling blocks
The polling numbers aren’t the only issue with a possible casino ballot measure in New Jersey:
- Gural also noted that a measure in 2015 likely would have had a better chance of success than in 2016, because the message and advertising wouldn’t be competing against the presidential election.
- Politicians in and around Atlantic City aren’t in favor of casino expansion. While a potential measure promises to help the region, legislators and interests in southern N.J. worry that cannibalization of A.C. revenue could occur.
But is NJ losing gaming revenue by not expanding?
Taking revenue away from Atlantic City may be only a secondary concern. Residents of New Jersey have fairly easy access to several casinos in Pennsylvania, including Parx and Sugarhhouse in Philadelphia, in addition to Mohegan Sun Pocono, Mt. Airy Casino Resort and Sands Bethlehem.
For instance, Sands is actively trying to lure players away from the state, and Atlantic City. Losing revenue to its neighbor to the west may be a driving factor in trying to build casinos elsewhere in New Jersey.
Atlantic City is also in danger of seeing more casinos fail, without a stimulus package that is sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. At the same time, gaming revenue in Atlantic City was up in July’s recently released figures.
The question New Jersey will have to ask itself is this: Is blocking the possibility of casino expansion worth trying to save an Atlantic City economy that may not succeed in the long term anyway?