[toc]The saga surrounding the New Jersey referendum to expand casinos beyond Atlantic City to North Jersey came to a close as the “yes” and “no” votes were counted on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
According to NJ.com, the final tally wasn’t close:
The ballot question appears on pace to fail by more than 1.5 million votes, according to projections by the Associated Press — which would make it the largest margin of defeat for any referendum the state has ever seen.
With 93 precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, the casino question was failing nearly 78 percent to 22 percent.
Over the past year, the referendum has seen a steady move toward a resolute “No.” A Monmouth University Polling Institute poll taken this spring indicated a dead heat, a sign that perhaps things had changed in a state where voters have been decidedly pro-Atlantic City since casinos were first approved there in 1974. Gov. Chris Christie also said he’d support the referendum.
However, the closer the vote drew, the further the reality of North Jersey casinos became, to the point that the referendum’s result was more a question of how badly it would fail rather than if it would succeed.
Voting day, aftermath spurs plenty of opinions
As the vote drew closer, opinions of the referendum became as clear as they were numerous. The Street reduced the vote to a matter of money: “If you follow the money, the … scheduled referendum vote on whether to expand legal gambling to Northern New Jersey will likely be defeated.”
Pro and con, North Jersey casinos takes
The forces behind the referendum — namely interests that would have procured a gaming license should the measure have passed — weren’t ready to throw in the towel in the future.
From the Press of AC:
“We are disappointed, but not surprised, by tonight’s result,” a statement from Our Turn NJ, a nonprofit campaign favoring the expansion of casino gaming, said. “We have seen for some time now that the people of New Jersey were unhappy with the lack of details on this issue.
“We do not view the failure to pass Question #1 as a rejection of gaming expansion but as a rejection of our state’s current political climate and a failure to have all the facts presented to them.”
Meanwhile, the opposition was understandably crowing after victory:
“We are glad to see the overwhelming support across New Jersey opposing casino expansion. We attribute our success to a broad coalition of community leaders, unions, small businesses and residents who are convinced that North Jersey casinos would be a detriment to the entire state,” said Bill Cortese, executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet.
Follow the money
According to Street reporter Tony Owusu, groups fighting the referendum paid $14.4 million to advertise and campaign against North Jersey casinos, while supporters of the referendum paid $8.6 million on behalf of their cause, a more than 70% difference.
The opposition group’s spending jolted upward in the past two weeks — they threw down $3.1 million, while supporters spent $100,000.
Problem gamblers used as deterrent
The Asbury Park Press published a story highlighting the narrative of a problem gambler who landed in prison for stealing from his employer to feed his gambling habit. The subject said he isn’t “crusading against casinos”, but wants there to be more public discourse of the human lives gobbled up by gambling’s seemingly voracious appetite.
The article went on to talk about the hidden thousands who struggle with problem gambling. While not quite a North Jersey town, Asbury Park’s paper certainly took a decisive South Jersey stance on the referendum.[i15-table tableid="11721"]
Supporters say more casinos combat out-of-state competitors
While the stories of problem gamblers may tug at the heart strings, supporters of the referendum point out that gamblers — problem and non-problem — are already leaving the state for casinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
So, keeping casinos in Atlantic City, they say, won’t curb problem gambling, it will just send that problem west or north, taking precious tax revenues with them to cities already bent on wooing gamblers away from New Jersey.
Furthermore, said Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jim Kirkos in an article from The Daily Progress, new casinos in North Jersey means jobs for the region and a boosted state economy.