Atlantic City’s Don Guardian to Speak before Tourism & Gaming Committee on Thursday
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian is set to testify next Thursday before the Tourism, Gaming, and Arts Committee of the New Jersey State Assembly. Ralph Caputo, the Democratic chairman of the committee, released a statement saying Don Guardian would discuss “the challenges that the gaming industry and Atlantic City are facing and the impact on the local economy.”
The meeting promises to be a showdown between Guardian and Ralph Caputo, the leader of the committee. Both men have well-articulated positions on the North Jersey casino issue, so the two men are likely to disagree with one another in the committee meeting.
Chris Brown Supports Atlantic City
Chris Brown, the ranking Republican on the Tourism Committee, says he plans to ask Atlantic City’s mayor about his position on building a casino in North Jersey. A growing number of politicians in the state are calling for a casino development in the Meadowlands, to draw more gamblers from the New York City metropolitan area. For the past 38 years, Atlantic City has maintained a casino gambling monopoly inside the state.
Assemblyman Brown has long supported maintaining the monopoly for Atlantic City, for historical reasons and to protect a longtime economic commitment in the state. Ralph Caputo, on the other hand, long has advocated for the Meadowlands casino.
Ralph Caputo Is behind North Jersey Casino
In the past, Don Guardian’s position has been similar to Ralph Caputo’s. Those who believe the casino industry should remain in Atlantic City exclusively say a North Jersey casino would undermine decades of work in Atlantic City. On Friday, Guardian said, “A casino in north Jersey will be incredibly destructive to Atlantic City.”
Those who support a Meadowlands casino say Atlantic City is already a failure and the state should end its decades-long attempt to turn the seaside resort city into the Las Vegas of the east. When New Jersey was the only state besides Nevada to have legalized casino gambling (back in the 1980s), such a plan might have been feasible.
Northeastern Market Saturation
With 40 U.S. states supporting licensed land-based casino gambling, the market is fractured and proximity to population centers is important. In those circumstances, having a destination resort further away from New York City and Philadelphia than other casinos is a losing proposition. Pennsylvania has or will build 5 casinos in the Philadelphia area. New York has 3 casinos in the state and is likely to approve licenses for 4 more casinos in the next few weeks.
One or more of those licenses is likely to go to Orange County, only 50 miles from Manhattan. Such a license approval is likely to be have a similar effect on Atlantic City as a North Jersey casino, except the tax revenues and jobs are likely to go to the state of New York, instead of New Jersey.
Why a Meadowlands Casino Works
Under those circumstances, lawmakers like Ralph Caputo calculate that the best plan is to approve a license of a Meadowlands casino, to get closer to New York City than the Orange County casino. Building a site before the Orange County casino opens and begins building customer loyalty is incumbent up Jersey lawmakers–at least that’s the way the East Rutherford casino proponents argue.
How Atlantic City’s Future Is Fragile
Chris Brown says that Atlantic City is currently shifting from a gaming destination to a tourist destination. Until that transition is complete, it would be a disaster for the city to have a northern New Jersey casino begin to take visitors.
Brown told the Press of Atlantic City, “I feel it is important for Mayor Guardian to share first hand with the committee how important it is for our local economy that Atlantic City be allowed to fully transition into a destination resort.“
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