Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen says despite spending more than half-billion dollars in Atlantic City, the casino company remains interested in developing a resort in North Jersey.
Hard Rock and Jeff Gural, owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, partnered when New Jersey voters considered a ballot referendum in 2016 to change the state constitution. The Meadowlands is located just across the Hudson River from New York City.
Question 1 would have authorized two casinos to be built at least 72 miles outside Atlantic City. The referendum was strongly rejected, with 77 percent of voters going against the measure.
Now two years later, and the matter could go before voters again. Allen says that’s fine with Hard Rock, as the company retains the exclusive rights at the Meadowlands to build a casino resort there should voters decide to end Atlantic City’s state monopoly on gambling.
“We would certainly be interested,” Allen told the Associated Press last week. “We have an ownership in the Meadowlands, and we have an exclusive right to operate the gaming operation there.”
The return of two of the five casinos that closed between 2014 and 2016 has flushed Atlantic City with enthusiasm. But gross gaming revenue remains down 4.3 percent through May.
Hard Rock Atlantic City opened on June 27 after the company completed its more than $500 million renovation of the former Trump Taj Mahal. Along with the opening of Ocean Resort Casino, the former Revel, and there was plenty of excitement throughout the city over the weekend.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort were both sold out, as was Borgata and Golden Nugget.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort collectively invested nearly $1 billion in bringing the shuttered casinos back to life. Allowing gambling to commence in North Jersey would presumably keep a substantial percentage of business that comes from the heavily populated northern regions of the Garden State from traveling south to Atlantic City.
Fortunately for the nine casinos in Atlantic City, the odds seem long that gambling will come to North Jersey anytime soon. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said recently, “I don’t see any way where it comes back. It (the ballot question) was crushed.”
Sports Betting Impact
The Supreme Court’s recent repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act has paved the way for states like New Jersey to determine their own regulations on the gambling activity. Sportsbooks can already be found in Atlantic City and at the Monmouth Park horse racetrack.
Gural says the Meadowlands sportsbook will start taking bets on July 15. With 15 million people residing within a 20-mile radius of the track, he says the SCOTUS decision was “a tremendous gift.”
Gural expects the Meadowlands sportsbook to generate the most sports betting handle in the state. New York state lawmakers failed to pass a sports gaming law before adjourning last month, another bonus for the real estate developer.
“New York did me such a favor,” Gural stated. “That leaves me the entirety of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County.”
With sports betting expanding up and down New Jersey, paired with a new governor who supports putting a casino in the northern part of the state, gaming analyst Tony Marino believes an “unintended consequence … is to give the tracks new ammunition to reopen the argument that they should now be allowed to have video slot machines.”