New Jersey Lawmakers Release Details on North Jersey Casino Referendum
New Jersey lawmakers released details of a statewide referendum on two North Jersey casinos. The referendum is set for the November 2016 election night on November 8.
The location of the casinos is still in doubt. The proposal indicates details about the casinos. The casinos must be at least 70 miles away from Atlantic City. This stipulation is meant to assure that gamblers along the Jersey Shore might would continue to gamble in their traditional locations. Many complain that North Jersey casinos would be the death knell of Atlantic City’s gaming industry.
Casino Bidders Would Need at Least $1 Billion
Each casino would have to cost at least $1 billion to build. This stipulation assures that the resulting gaming complex would be a 21st century “integrated resort”, meaning it would be more than a simple casino. Instead, it would be a whole development center, with retail outlets, restaurants, and nightspots included.
Integrated resorts have world class hotel accommodations and convention halls. The high price tag also would assure thousands of local construction jobs, along with thousands of permanent union jobs when the casino opens.
No Locations Determined Yet
Early speculation about the likeliest location are Jersey City and East Rutherford. Jersey City is the state’s second-largest city and is across the river from Manhattan, so it is a natural location if the intent is to lure New York City gamblers.
East Rutherford is not far down the road. Also, it is the home to the Meadowlands sports complex, so it would be a natural place to attract gamblers. Also, gaming executive Jeff Gural holds a (disputed) lease to the Meadowlands sports complex, which is owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
Jeff Gural’s Estimates on Tax Revenues
Last year, Jeff Gural estimated a modern casino at the Meadowlands would generate $400 million to $500 million in tax revenues for the state each year. Gural indicated he would be willing to pay a 55% tax rate to secure such a lucrative casino site.
The figure is likely to get lawmakers’ attention. Atlantic City casinos currently pay an 8% tax rate. New Jersey also has had to modify terms for the casino industry of Atlantic City (or for Atlantic City itself) over the past few years.
Atlantic City Gaming Industry
Under any circumstances, Atlantic City is going to lose in this deal. Advocates for North Jersey casinos would argue that Atlantic City’s casino industry already is a dead letter. Over the past ten years, revenues have declined from $5.4 billion to $2.5 billion. The city is bankrupt and Gov. Christie just announced a 5-year plan in which state officials will control its economy.
The decade-long decline of Atlantic City is due to competition from nearby states. The 1990s brought Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, along with a long line of tribal casinos.
In the middle of the decade of the 2000s, the State of Pennsylvania legalized casino-style gambling at racetracks. Pennsylvania also allowed private casinos like the Bethlehem Sands. New York state also began to construct casinos.
These days, most Atlantic City gambling is more likely to come from instate. Even the instate gamblers do not always travel to Atlantic City. Those living in the northern half of the state often go to Bethlehem Sands near Philadelphia or Resorts World Queens in New York City, because they’re closer to their home.
Why North Jersey Casinos Are needed
To counter the trends, the North Jersey casinos are being proposed. The idea is to maintain gamblers from North Jersey, but also to draw customers from New York City. If a casino is built in Jersey City, it will be the gaming venue nearest to Manhattan (and not in Queens).
Due to the influence of New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Atlantic City gaming operators will have a leg up in securing one of the two licenses. Sweeney also has proposed a $1 billion subsidy for Atlantic City from the gaming taxes, a plan which would cover a 10-year span. AC would receive about $200 million in the first years of the plan, with dwindling payments in later years.
Racetrack Subsidies and Other Benefits
Racetracks from around the state would receive a 2% subsidy from the North Jersey casinos. Others to benefit include senior citizens and the disabled, who receive support from the tax revenues. That includes new programs to help distribute the funds.
The plan is expected to change the landscape of gambling in the region. New York state has authorized casinos for other parts of the state, but do not plan anything (at present) so near to New York City.
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