A constitutional amendment to allow casinos in North Jersey was proposed by New Jersey lawmakers Friday, with voters set to have their say on the matter in November 2016 if the amendment finds favor in the Senate and Assembly.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney introduced the proposal that would permit two casinos to be located in North Jersey. The New Jersey constitution currently calls for all gambling to be within the borders of Atlantic City.
The issue of gambling expansion beyond “America’s Playground” has been quite contentious among lawmakers in the Garden State, with those situated in and around Atlantic City fearing that casinos in North Jersey would further ravage the area. Four Atlantic City casinos closed last year, leaving only eight remaining.
Throw ‘Em a Bone
In order to appease those who favor restricting legalized gambling to Atlantic City – as has been the case since 1978 – revenue from the North Jersey casinos would be funneled to Atlantic City in perpetuity. For the first 15 years, Atlantic City would receive 49% of revenue generated from the North Jersey casinos, while seniors and the disabled get another 49%, and 2% for the horse racing industry.
The following 10 years, Atlantic City’s take would dwindle by 3% each and every year, while the funds toward the disabled and senior citizens would increase by the same amount. After a quarter-century, Atlantic City would forever receive 19%.
That doesn’t sit well with the Casino Association of New Jersey, as a representative of that organization told the Press of Atlantic City that “we do not believe that North Jersey casinos are a prudent option….., we oppose the proposal to expand gaming in North Jersey.”
Some 8,000 jobs were lost when the Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza closed their doors in 2014. North Jersey casinos may keep a number of gamblers from visiting Atlantic City, doing even more harm to the economy in that region.
Sweeney would like New Jersey residents to decide the issue and has submitted his proposal just in time for them to do so on the November 2016 ballot. If a majority of Senate and Assembly members vote yes in two consecutive years, voters are next in line.
The idea is for lawmakers to vote now before the end of the year and then again in January. Approval in just one year would require a three-fifths majority in both chambers, which is not very likely due to the opposition from South Jersey legislators.
However, that all may be moot if a recent Fairleigh Dickinson poll holds true. Six months ago, a survey found 56% of New Jersey voters opposed to casinos outside of Atlantic City, while 37% were in favor of the idea.
Blueprints for two North Jersey casinos have already been drawn up, one in East Rutherford and the other in Jersey City. Sweeney’s proposal does not name any locations for the casinos, stating only that the gaming establishments should be in separate counties and at least 75 miles away from Atlantic City.
Hard Rock International has its eye on the East Rutherford location and has submitted a proposal for a $1 billion casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Jersey City is favored by Reebok founder Paul Fireman, who would like to build a casino, hotel and 95-story skyscraper – a $4.6 billion project.