The prospect of North Jersey casinos and the future of Atlantic City both came up in the governor’s race in New Jersey on Wednesday night.

North Jersey casinos in the future?

The topic of North Jersey casinos apparently isn’t dead yet.

Moderators for a debate between Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno asked the candidates if they would “support gaming at the meadowlands in North Jersey.” Voters in the state did not approve a referendum that would have allowed two casinos outside of AC.

Here’s Murphy:

North Jersey gaming I’ve supported strongly. And here’s my rationale. No. 1, it’s a huge job creator, and we’re desperate for jobs.

No. 2, if it’s not in North Jersey, before we know it’s going to be in the west side of Manhattan.The projects that were voted down last year had elements where they would send a significant amount of income to Atlantic City. and that’s a big basis of which I was supportive of it.

My fear is that if there’s a casino on the west side of Manhattan, they won’t send one red cent to Atlantic City. I would rather see that gaming those jobs created be in New Jersey.

And Guadagno:

Once Atlantic City is stabilized, yes I believe we should put on the ballot the question of whether or not …  gaming should be up north.

And i agree that if someone’s going to get the jobs we should get the jobs, and I think we are in the best possible position to get those jobs.

She then diverged into attacking Murphy on other fronts.

You can watch the debate here; the AC and North Jersey casinos parts starts at the 16-minute mark.

It might be a while on North Jersey casinos, however

The issue will not be on the ballot this November. And after the measure lost handily in 2016, next year might be unlikely, as well. Even the owner of the Meadowlands isn’t in a rush.

Still, Murphy is right about one thing: Regional casino competition isn’t going away.

New York may act to add more commercial gaming closer to New Jersey. Another casino in coming to Philadelphia. Even NJ’s advantage in online gambling may be coming to an end, with Pennsylvania considering legalizing online casinos and poker.

The state would certainly be smart to consider adding casinos outside of AC.

More on AC from the candidates

Before North Jersey casinos came up, the candidates were asked about their plans for AC. The city, of course, is under state control now because of the actions of current Gov. Chris Christie.

Here’s Murphy:

Atlantic City has gone through hell and back, the good news is it’s off the mat, but the price that was paid is enormous. Enormous job loss as you mentioned.

Atlantic County leads all counties in America in foreclosed homes. It’s as unique of a community as we have in the state, it’s a proud community. I was there last night, I’m there all the time. It’s a great community. But it needs help.

I am not a fan of these takeovers, every single time it’s over the top, every single time it’s in communities of color, whether it’s school districts or entire communities. I am a believer that communities like Atlantic City need a governor who is a partner working on the ground, hand in glove to continue to develop he momentum that has started its nascent stages.

The casinos have stabilized, employment has stabilized. The economy in Atlantic City must be diversified. Stockton University is opening up a campus in Atlantic City, thats a really good step in the right direction. So non-gaming investment will matter a lot there, and I want to work with Atlantic City to do that.

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And Guadagno’s response

I find that incredible based on your position when it comes tax credits.The only thing that keeps Atlantic City alive now and attracts businesses to Atlantic City are those tax credits that have allowed and attracted places like the Hard Rock Cafe.

That’s why Atlantic City is on its way back, plus some very hard to decisions had to be made. What I want to know from you Phil, is while you were in Atlantic City last night, did you visit that food bank that I talked about last week so you could talk to some of the people that work two jobs every day to put food on their table? …

Because if you had, you would have heard that they can’t afford more property taxes, higher property taxes, I am going to lower property taxes, you’re going to rase them, and you’re going to move these people out of New Jersey.

And then, on whether Murphy would continue the state takeover:

I would undo that state takeover but I would say that we would be there on the ground, the governor and the executive branch would be on the ground working with local elected officials to keep the progress that we’ve seen in Atlantic City, and hopefully a whole lot more.

Dustin Gouker

About

Aside from his role as editor at LegalSportsReport.com, Dustin Gouker writes extensively about the legal online gaming and US online poker industries, having played poker recreationally for his entire adult life. He has also covered sports for The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner, among others.