As New Jersey’s November casino referendum draws near, more voices — like irons to the fire — are being added to the discussion.
This past week state Sen. Jim Whelan, once the mayor of Atlantic City, joined gaming analyst Cory Morowitz to discuss why he is opposed to expanding New Jersey’s casino locations beyond AC. NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan talked with Whelan about the various issues surrounding the referendum.
Whelan has said in the past he’d be open to casinos in North Jersey. However, during his interview he seemed to think pro-referendum support would take a potentially disastrous hit if NJ residents were decisive in their “no” vote.
“A lot depends on how badly the referendum is defeated,” he told Brennan, “meaning it will be difficult for supporters to regroup quickly for another try if the public seems dead-set against North Jersey casinos via a lopsided vote.”
Earlier this summer he was more decisive in his opposition, saying the referendum was “no good” for New Jersey.
Morowitz casts pretty picture for AC’s future
Atlantic City’s financial woes have been well-publicized, and perhaps it’s this still-stinging wound (and concerns of cannibalization) that has casino owners and AC leaders reinforcing the front lines on the issue.
This understandable doubling-down on blocking the referendum has also had a complementary side-effect: leaders like Morowitz are talking about Atlantic City’s possibly prosperous future.
He thinks AC’s lodging capacity and convention space make it a legitimate contender against Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Past study says adding two North NJ casinos dangerous for AC
The past few months have seen some positive signs for Atlantic City, alongside the negative (like Trump Taj Mahal’s possible closure).
Casino revenues have been up or relatively steady (for the most part). The city avoided a state takeover when Gov. Chris Christie signed a bailout package that gave AC five months to get its budget balanced.
As such, it seems that casino and city leaders are leveraging one particular study that paints quite a gloomy picture amid the enthusiasm and attempts at self-preservation. The study, presented at the East Coast Gaming Congress this May, projected that two new casinos in the north could lead to the loss of more than 20,000 jobs and the closure of three to five casinos in the south.
Polls predict failure for referendum
In the meantime, public support for the referendum seems to be wavering as well. In June, a poll from Quinnipiac showed a 48-48 split on the vote. However, one month later, a Fairleigh Dickinson poll revealed that only 35 percent of respondents were in favor of allowing up to two casinos to open in North Jersey.
PublicMind’s director went as far as to say that opinions in favor of expansion have always been meager, at best.