New Jersey Senate President Sweeney against Meadowlands Casino before 2016
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said on Wednesday of this last week that he would oppose any move towards a land-based casino in the Meadowlands. Steve Sweeney said he would use his position to undermine any legislation which would authorize a casino outside of Atlantic City until February of 2016.
The president of the New Jersey Senate will not only try to stop any legislation, but Sweeney has said he would try to avert any formal discussion of a casino in his legislative body. Sweeney appears to have the power to follow through on the threat. Also, the governor of New Jersey appears to have a similar position, so it’s unlikely that the Meadowlands casino has much of a chance of happening–for now.
Potential 2016 Casino Initiative
What happens in 2016 and beyond is another matter entirely. 2016 is when the promised five year window Governor Chris Christie gave Atlantic City to change the trends and save the Boardwalk casinos.
If 2016 gets here and the Atlantic City casinos are still having trouble increasing revenues, then politicians on both sides of the aisle may look at other remedies. Until then, Governor Christie and his allies have passed legalized online poker and casino gambling for the Atlantic City casinos, hoping to increase their revenue streams. Also, Christie appealed to the Supreme Court the question of whether the federal ban on sports gambling, which pertains to Atlantic City, is constitutional or not.
Sweeney Staying True to His Word
Steve Sweeney portrayed his stance on the issue as a matter of principle. When asked about it at a press conference in which March Madness in specific and sports betting in general were being discussed, Sweeney said, “Listen, as long as I’m alive and I’m the Senate president, we’re not moving [such bills]. I made a deal, and my word is good. We’ll talk about it after the five years. That’s when we would start having a discussion.”
Not every lawmaker believes Sweeney’s position makes sense. A trio of Democrats, including State Senator Paul Sarlo of Wood Ridge, State Senator Richard Codey of Essex, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo of Essex each have expressed recently that they believe now is the time to discuss the Meadowlands casino idea. While none of these suggest development should be begin until after February 2016, all three believe the question should be discussed and plans should be formulated for the inevitable deadline in early 2016.
Meadowlands Talk Hurts Investment
Senate President Sweeney sees such talk as a means of undermining Atlantic City casinos. To him, not would it be a tacit admission the traditional gaming venues have failed in their five-year mission, but it would also undermine their ability to draw the capital needed to change their business model.
Sweeney believes some never believed in the Atlantic City initiatives, and have been looking forward to the time they can put a casino in the northeastern New Jersey. The Senate President says, “The thing that frustrated me most is the day we signed the bill, everyone started talking about going outside of Atlantic City. That doesn’t help, when people are trying to make investments and make decisions [about whether to invest in Atlantic City]. People pause, and investors pause. I’ve upheld my end of the [five-year] deal, and we’ve had a whole lot of other people trying to undermine it.”
Atlantic City Initiative Continues
While some New Jersey politicians have shown disappointment at the numbers after four months of licensed online gambling, few are willing to concede that iGaming revenues won’t help save the Boardwalks establishments.
The leaders of New Jersey did not stop there. They simplified state regulations to make running a profitable operation easier. They created a Tourism District in Atlantic City to draw more visitors. They increased the Atlantic City’s marketing budget. In February 2014, Governor Chris Christie appealed the state’s case for sports gambling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the Boardwalk casinos falter, Steve Sweeney and Chris Christie can say it was not because of a lack of political support. That could be a double-edged sword for the gaming interests in Atlantic City. If those interests have not made visible progress by February 2016, then it can be assumed that the unqualified support of the past will turn into support for other initiatives–perhaps in the Meadowlands.