[toc]Gov. Chris Christie’s time in Trenton, New Jersey is almost over. The same is true for Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian. With new players entering the fold next year, things are about to change for New Jersey casinos. Moreover, the issue of land-based casino expansion could be back in the fold.
Let’s take a look at these new public officials and where they stand on both Atlantic City and the idea of new casinos in North Jersey.
New Jersey’s new governor: Phil Murphy
Term limited, Christie had no choice but to sit on the sidelines and watch this year’s gubernatorial race. Both Republican candidate Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy said they were in favor of resuming talks about casino expansion.
Murphy’s agenda proved to be more compelling than Guadagno’s when it came to the other issues though. As a result, Murphy won the election easily. It probably did not help Guadagno that she is currently serving as lieutenant-governor under the Christie regime. Currently Christie’s approval rating stands at a mere 15 percent.
Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive turned politician. After the state elections, both the state legislature and the governor’s office will be Democratic. As a result, Murphy should not have too terrible a time pushing key pieces of his platform through.
One piece of that platform is expanding casinos into North Jersey. This despite the fact that last year’s voter referendum on the subject failed by historic margins.
It is fair to point out that this time last year the mood about Atlantic City casinos was only beginning to be more optimistic. During the gubernatorial debate, Murphy justified his stance on the issue. He said it was a job creator during a time the Garden State is desperate for jobs.
Additionally, he fears New York will beat them to the punch with a casino in Western Manhattan. The fears northern casinos would eat into Atlantic City’s Renaissance, in Murphy’s eyes, are less scary than losing out on a market where there is a chance to dominate.
New Atlantic City Mayor: Frank Gilliam
Unlike Christie, Guardian sought re-election in Atlantic City, he just failed to get it. Instead, the city opted for fresh blood in the form of Atlantic City councilman Frank Gilliam. During Guardian’s tenure, four Atlantic City casinos closed and the state took over operational control of the city.
Guardian continually clashed with the law firm Christie appointed to oversee day-to-day operations in Atlantic City. Gilliam is already taking a much more open approach to the situation.
The two Democrats claim to be excited to work together to continue to improve Atlantic City.
“This is going to be a true partnership,” Gilliam told Press of Atlantic City.
Murphy opposed the way the state handled the Atlantic City situation. Instead of coming in and taking control, he pledges to listen to local leaders, collaborating in the decision-making process.
One area Gilliam and Murphy may not agree is North Jersey casino expansion. However, this is not as big of a change as it may seem. Gilliam has not spoken on the expansion ideas, but generally Atlantic City representatives want to preserve their monopoly in the states. It does not bode well for Gilliam that Murphy said the failed plan’s key problem was too much money going to Atlantic City casinos.
Another element which will inevitably play a role in this debate is the forthcoming sports betting case in the Supreme Court. Not long after their inaugurations, both Gilliam and Murphy could be busy establishing protocols on sports betting.
Moreover, Monmouth Park in North Jersey will be one of the racetracks offering sports betting, so developers and lawmakers will have to consider that competition in the decision making process as well.