North Jersey Casino Expansion Ad Campaign Comes Down, Amid Growing Sense It Ain’t Gonna Happen

Posted on: September 24, 2016, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: September 23, 2016, 04:14h.

Backers of a North Jersey casino expansion ad campaign, one which supported a referendum vote to take gaming into the north part of the Garden State, have thrown in the towel.

Chris Christie Jeff Gural NJ casino expansion
Investor and real estate mogul Jeff Gural (right) with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) says that public mistrust of politicians is a major reason why New Jersey’s casino expansion proposal is doomed to failure. Gural was a backer of the expansion push. (Image: Mel Evans/AP)

OUR Turn NJ, which was backed by billionaire investor Paul Fireman and real estate mogul Jeff Gural, pulled its media advertising campaign, apparently unwilling to plow more money into what looks like a lost cause. Fireman and Gural had hoped to build one casino apiece, in the north of the state close to the border with New York.

The OUR Turn NJ (OTNJ) group said that polling showed little appetite among voters for the proposal to break Atlantic City’s longstanding monopoly on casino gaming and create two new licenses in the north. Voters are set to decide on the issue on a November 8 ballot, but OTNJ now appears resigned to the idea that residents will likely vote overwhelmingly against expansion.

Blindsided by Media Blitz

OUR Turn NJ said on Thursday said that an internal poll found just 37 percent of New Jersey residents supported amending the constitution to pave the way for the new casinos. Meanwhile, an external poll released this week by Rutgers-Eagleton put the number even lower, at just 35 percent, while noting that 57 percent were against the idea.

The pro-expansion group admitted that it been blindsided by the media blitz launched by the opposition campaign, “Trenton’s Bad Bet,” which focused almost entirely on the perceived untrustworthiness of the state’s politicians, rather than the casinos themselves.

“Trenton political bosses are up to their old games,” proclaims one TV spot, which goes on to suggest that politicians will use the new casino revenue however they want, “just like they did when they bailed out Donald Trump’s failing casinos.”

Mistrust of Trenton

The campaign has been markedly effective in tapping into public distrust of lawmakers. Polling by OTNJ found that just ten percent of voters believed politicians would deliver on using the revenue for the purposes promised. Voters were also concerned about the lack of details, such as precisely where the casinos would be built, or the exact rate of taxes they would likely pay.

“We believe deeply that gaming expansion to Northern New Jersey is a remarkable opportunity that should not be squandered,” Gural and Fireman said in an official statement.

“We have committed $4 billion in private investment to this state to create world-class resort destinations with gaming. The benefits include 43,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in recaptured revenue, a rare opportunity for New Jersey.

“The data, however, speaks for itself,” the investors noted. “The current political climate in New Jersey and voters’ concerns about the lack of details relating to the effort have proved overwhelming.”