A proposed North Jersey casino expansion plan in the Garden State is receiving growing resistance from across the Hudson. Two separate campaigns were launched this week, one from a casino workers union, and the other a Genting New York City casino. Both marketing efforts will aim at persuading their neighbors on the other side of the George Washington Bridge to vote against the proposal.
In March, the New Jersey legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill which will allow voters to decide on November 8 whether to break Atlantic City’s longstanding monopoly on casino gaming.
The North Jersey proposal would create two casino licenses for projects close to New York’s border, with the hope that it will attract legions of casino-goers from the Big Apple’s metropolitan area, bolstering New Jersey’s sagging gaming economy.
Certain New York lawmakers are aghast at the proposal, which is in direct opposition to their own upstate casino expansion. The Empire State licensed three new northern region casinos this year under the proviso that none could be built downstate for seven years.
But now, facing a potential border war in the south, New York is considering tearing up that agreement to warn New Jersey voters off the referendum.
Union City Blues
Wading into the fray is the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC), which represents workers in New York, as well as around 5,000 hospitality workers in New Jersey. HTC, which is under the AFL-CIO federation of labor unions umbrella, is launching a TV and digital ad campaign against the proposal. Its focus? That the current North Jersey casino expansion referendum excludes a “labor peace” provision, a factor that could restrict union organizing efforts.
“Our union has built a strong standard for gaming workers in the tristate area, and until we have concrete assurances that those standards will be met, we will oppose any efforts to expand gaming into North Jersey,” said HTC union President Peter Ward.
“Trenton political bosses are up to their old games,” proclaims the ad, which suggests politicians will use the new casino revenue however they wish, “just like they did when they bailed out Donald Trump’s failing casinos.”
Trenton’s Bad Bet
Meanwhile, Malaysian casino operating giant Genting, which owns a slots parlor in the New York City borough of Queens, has bankrolled an advertising campaign against the proposal for a group called Trenton’s Bad Bet, which is composed heavily of Atlantic City casinos that oppose the referendum.
While expansion promises to offer back compensation $200 million per year to the close-to-bankrupt Atlantic City, many operators and voters in the resort town are skeptical. Supporters of the payout claim that taxes on the North Jersey new casinos will cover it.
The resort city has lost a quarter of its casinos in the last three years, and the announcement of the imminent closure of the Trump Taj Mahal in mid-October is driving anxiety that expansion could be the death knell for the city. Others believe the Atlantic City sector is now rightsized, and can cope with some extra competition, while hopefully attracting footfall to New Jersey from neighboring states.