North New Jersey Casino Expansion Back on State’s Agenda

Posted on: December 16, 2015, 03:20h. 

Last updated on: December 16, 2015, 03:32h.

Steve Sweeney North New Jersey casino expansion
North New Jersey casino expansion: State Senate President Steve Sweeney wants residents to vote on the issue in November 2016. (Image:

North New Jersey wants to give Atlantic City a run for its money. And New Jerseyans may yet get the right to vote for casino expansion beyond the Boardwalk.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney has reintroduced legislation calling for a referendum on whether two new casinos should be built in the north part of the state, across the water from New York City, breaking AC’s longstanding monopoly.

The bill proposes that a state-wide vote on the issue take place in November 2016.

The question of North Jersey casino expansion has been muted before. Atlantic City has suffered from the legalization of casino gaming within abutting states, and increased competition was a major factor in four Atlantic City casino closures in the last two years.

Pennsylvania legalized casino gaming in 2007, and recently overtook its neighbor in gaming revenue. Meanwhile, New York State and Massachusetts have both opted to license their first casinos and the emergence of these new markets will undoubtedly damage the New Jersey market.

Strategic Importance

But North Jersey’s proximity to Manhattan and the New York greater metropolitan area makes it a strategically advantageous location for casinos, which Sweeney believes would lure droves of gamblers across the Hudson.

“The question of gaming outside of Atlantic City has long been debated,” Sweeney said. “Now is the time for the voters to decide. Expanding gambling to North Jersey is the best way to revitalize an industry that is important to the state’s economy so that we can compete with neighboring states, generate the revenue needed to revive Atlantic City and contribute to economic growth.”

The bill would ensure that no new casinos could be built within 75 miles of Atlantic City and that casinos in the north would pay a much higher tax on their gaming revenues than the eight percent currently paid by Atlantic City casinos.

High Taxes

Hard Rock International and the Meadowlands Racetrack, which want to build a casino in East Rutherford, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, have offered to pay as much as 55 percent in taxes.

Forty-nine percent of this tax revenue would then go to Atlantic City to compensate for the inevitable loss of business, while another 49 percent would go to counties and municipalities, and the remaining two percent would benefit New Jersey’s horse racing industry.

Opinions remain deeply divided on the issue, particularly with Atlantic City itself.

“North Jersey casinos would be disastrous for our local economy, driving jobs and investment out of our region,” said former mayor James Whelan on Twitter this week.

Recent financial reports suggest that AC is bouncing back and that the city’s casino profits were up 55.9 percent in Q3 this year. However, Moody’s Investment Analysts warned that this was more likely a reflection of the recent casino closures, which have boosted revenues for those that remain. Moody’s said it expected further closures in the coming year.