The recent spate of casino closings in New Jersey has renewed interest in perhaps allowing casinos to be located outside of Atlantic City, with the state’s northern end receiving considerable attention.
That attention has come in the form of huge projects proposed for the North Jersey area designed to capture gamblers who are currently visiting casinos in nearby states. One such proposal includes more than just a casino-hotel, with the world’s largest Ferris wheel, a racetrack that seats more than 100,000, and a skyscraper 95 stories high all mentioned as part of the project.
That massive development with a price tag of $4.6 billion has been proposed by Paul Fireman, founder of Reebok International. The venture capitalist is held in high regard by many in the Garden State for turning a toxic waste site in Jersey City into a lavish golf course a dozen years ago.
Another project being discussed calls for a $1.2 billion investment to transform the Meadowlands sports complex into a gambling haven that would consist of a number of “themed casino districts” located among hotels and a huge convention center, the Press of Atlantic City reported. The Meadowlands racetrack would function as the centerpiece for that proposal that also includes blueprints for a water park, indoor ski slope, and a people-mover system to allow for easy access to the various entertainment options available.
Don’t forget Atlantic City!
While both of those proposals sound wonderful, neither will get off the ground unless lawmakers agree to put forth a referendum that allows New Jersey residents to have a say on the matter. The state’s Constitution currently restricts gambling to within Atlantic City.
One of the concerns about allowing gambling expansion in the state is that it may decimate Atlantic City gaming even further. For that reason, any projects undertaken in North Jersey will also likely include strategic development for Atlantic City in order to continue to attract tourists and gamblers.
“Any expansion up here (North Jersey) has to subsidize projects to make Atlantic City a year-round resort,” said State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who previously held an executive position with an Atlantic City casino before venturing into politics in 2008.
Gov. Christie appears willing
Gov. Chris Christie has indicated a desire to expand gambling to North Jersey at some point in time, provided that revenue be used to help rejuvenate Atlantic City. While his approval of online gambling in February 2013 was also done to bolster slumping revenues at Atlantic City casinos, New Jersey online poker and gambling sites remain a work in progress.
PokerStars is expected to soon join that online gambling market, with a recent study by Morgan Stanley predicting that revenue may rise some 60% due to the presence of the industry giant. Following the casino closings of the Atlantic Club, Revel, Showboat, Trump Plaza, and perhaps the Trump Taj Mahal in November, the addition of PokerStars and the expected revenue boost, albeit in the realm of online gambling, will likely be a welcome sight.
Should voters approve gambling expansion and North Jersey does become home to one of the two projects proposed, it’s vital that the north and south regions of the state aren’t pitted against each other. That’s why including Atlantic City in any future projects elsewhere in the state is so important.
“If Atlantic City loses, all of New Jersey loses,” said Meadowlands Regional Chamber president Jim Kirkos. “We want to use the resources of a North Jersey casino to help fund Atlantic City. We don’t want to hurt Atlantic City. But protecting dollars in New Jersey is really what this conversation is about.”