NJ Casino Referendum, Trump Victory, AC Takeover All Converge In November

[toc]As with all things political last week, headlines brought together an interesting convergence of news.

Question 1 on New Jersey’s general election ballot was shot down by 1.6 million votes, keeping casinos only in Atlantic City.

On the same day, Donald Trump, the man who hailed the Trump Taj Mahal as the” Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1990, won the presidential election.

And just one day later, the state’s Division of Community Affairs rejected Atlantic City’s financial plan (per the requirements of an economic bailout package) and enacted a state takeover of the city’s finances.

The trio of events revealed much about the unique environment that is New Jersey. People have been loyal to and supportive of Atlantic City casinos since their inception in 1974. Residents have also ridden out the literal and figurative storms that have battered the resort town.

Though a New Jersey referendum, NY backed it

The geography and politics at work in the Nov. 8 referendum are fascinating. Jeff Gural was an outspoken voice from the expansion of North Jersey casinos and is a New York racino owner himself. He slammed Atlantic City casino owners and politicians for wanting to restrict casinos to the city.

However, Gural’s voice was overshadowed by an even louder outcry in New York City, where casino operators feared North Jersey properties would put a serious dent in their customer base and jeopardize their market.

The Elmira (NY) newspaper, the Star Gazette, reported that New York casinos helped contribute around $14 million to an ad campaign intended to convince voters to vote “no” on Question 1. Malaysia-based Genting Group, which own Resorts World in Yonkers, was one of the bigger backers of the ad campaign.

As has been well-documented over the past week, the referendum failed by a huge margin.

City takeover would be disaster: Trump, 1989

Some in Atlantic City might consider last Tuesday a double win. The city retained a monopoly over casinos and one of its “own” — Trump — shocked the country and the world by winning the presidential election. (Of course, he also created a lot of bad blood in AC.)

Trump was the ultimate larger-than-life personality in a city meant to be over the top. Coincidentally, it was Trump who said nearly three decades ago that a state takeover of the city’s finances would be a disaster.

NJ.com reporter Brent Johnson took readers back to 1989 when Trump was among the Atlantic City businessmen fighting a state takeover.

“You need a person of vision. Whether that person is elected locally or appointed by the state, I don’t care,” Trump was quoted as saying.

The President-elect went on to then say he thought disaster would strike if the state controlled the city’s finances.

A Cloudy Future for AC

Turns out the “person of vision” for the city’s 2016 takeover was Timothy Cunningham, director of the Division of Local Government Services.

The next few months will be very interesting for the city. Job cuts and union negotiations are likely, leaving workers to wonder about their future while AC tries to pull itself out of a financial tailspin.

About the Author

J.R. Duren

A three-time winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest, J.R. Duren works as a freelance writer with a focus on the NJ online gambling and online casino industry. He writes for a number of publications, including Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, Barcelona Metropolitan, Snooth, and the Villages Daily Sun.