Atlantic City Gaming Conference Attendees Discuss a Meadowlands Casino This Week
Business and political leaders at a regional gambling conference discussed the possibility of a casino in northern New Jersey on Tuesday. Throughout this week in Atlantic City, New Jersey politicians and gaming industry executives are having a series of meetings. One of the topics up for discussion is a proposed Meadowlands casino.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a Democrat from the part of New Jersey which would receive the casino, is concerned that the state is letting its opportunity slip away. Across the Hudson River in New York, state regulators have approved 4 land-based casinos. Assemblyman Caputo is concerned the New York casinos will be opened before a Meadowlands gaming venue. Such a move would allow those casinos to build a loyal customer base first.
Meadowlands Casino Could Be Worth $1 billion a Year
“A casino in north Jersey–to be taxed at 50% or 60%–we could do a billion dollars a year in that location. We’ve got to be fighting for those customers,” said Caputo. “That’s what Pennsylvania is doing. That’s what New York wants to do. We’ve got to beat New York to the punch.”
Such a development could prove to be a major windfall for the taxpayers of New Jersey, as wealthy New Yorkers would be losing money at a Jersey casino only a few miles from the Big Apple. Under such a scenario, many more New Yorkers would visit the casino than they would Atlantic City. Unfortunately, officials in the State of New York have similar ideas.
Orange County, NY Casino Plans
At the moment, New York officials are taking applications for the four potential land casinos in the state. Twenty-two different applicants have filed papers and paid a $1 million application fee to be considered. If the process continues at its current pace, New York’s casino developments would have a head start. The size of the project and local labor concerns could slow the New York developments, so New Jersey still has time.
One of the biggest concerns is the proposed casino in Orange County, New York. A great deal of speculation has either Caesars Entertainment or Genting Group securing a license to build a casino in Woodbury, a city in Orange County. If this happened, it would place a modern casino within 50 miles of New York City. New Yorkers and international visitors to Manhattan would be likely to visit the Woodbury casino. A casino close to the Big Apple in the Meadowlands would be the only way New Jersey could compete.
Lack of Support among Jersey Politicians
The idea of a Meadowlands casino is controversial, though. Governor Christie is against such a plan, at least until 2016. The leaders of the New Jersey legislature also have spoken publicly against such a plan. Lawmakers from Atlantic City’s part of the state believe a Meadowlands casino development would be a disaster, too.
State Senator Jeff Van Drew, from Cape May County (near Atlantic City), says the state has a promise to restrict casino gambling to Atlantic City. On Tuesday, Van Drew said, “We have to stop talking about the Meadowlands. The Meadowlands would cannibalize the industry; the Meadowlands will just further split that gambling pie and hurt Atlantic City.”
Senator Van Drew added that Caputo is bright and articulate and the two agree 99% of the time, “But when he’s wrong, he’s really wrong.”
Chris Christie’s 5-Year Window
Gov. Chris Christie’s issues with a Meadowlands casino have more to do with timing than concept. In February 2011, Christie stated that Atlantic City should be given a 5-year window in order to turn its business around. To provide Atlantic City’s gaming industry a boost, Christie championed the passage of a gambling law which made it legal for licensed online casinos to operate inside New Jersey.
In 2012, Christie also supported Atlantic City casinos’ right to accept sports bets. The lack of sports gambling has hurt the Boardwalk casinos, while such freedom to take wagers on sporting events would give the casinos an advantage many other regional venues do not have. Yet Christie’s initiative led to a lawsuit by the big four sports leagues: the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. That case might be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months, though it might never been seen the 9 justices.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, Atlantic City’s gaming operations have continued to struggle. The Atlantic Club was closed in January, after going through the bankruptcy process. Revel Casino is likely to be sold for capital. Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment’s CEO recently spoke of closing one of his corporation’s 4 casinos in the city, due to saturation.
The moratorium on non-Atlantic City casinos is supported by leaders in the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly. With the five-year window set to close in February 2016, a whole new administration might be in place to consider such a proposals. If Ralph Caputo is right, then 2016 will be too late. By that time, the Woodbury Casino (or something comparable) will be close to opening in New York City.
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