Wynn Resorts Confirms It Will Seek a North Jersey Casino License
Steve Wynn confirmed the rumors that he is interested in building a casino in North Jersey. Wynn said he would only be interested in building if the proposal in the General Assembly ended up being the official law, instead of the State Senate’s law.
Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Resorts, told NJ Advance Media that his company is interested in a Jersey casino. Weaver said, “If the right opportunity were created by the Legislature, we would be interested in New Jersey. It seems shortsighted to limit the options available for future development of the industry, given that some of the top tier resort companies, such as Wynn, are not operating in Atlantic City.”
The Sweeney Plan
The Senate’s proposed is being pushed by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester). Sweeney’s plan involves two casinos in North Jersey, but licensing would be restricted only to Atlantic City casino operators. Wynn Resorts currently has no operations in Atlantic City, so the gaming mogul would have to buy a casino on the Boardwalk in order to qualify. The price would be too high — even if that were allowed. It is possible any such plan might have a grandfather clause, assuring that casino companies would need to have been operating before the law was passed.
The Prieto Plan
The General Assembly’s proposal is the handiwork of State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Gloucester). Prieto’s option includes a provision for two casinos in North Jersey, too. Like the Senate plan, it would assure that one of the Atlantic City casino operators would receive a license, which is seen a return on the loyalty and jobs creation provided by those companies over the years. The second casino license would be open to any gaming operator, whether they have an Atlantic City casino or not.
Under that scenario, Wynn Resorts would have an equal opportunity to secure the North Jersey casino license. The competition likely would be fierce, because the (likely) Meadowlands and Jersey City casinos would be the closest integrated-resorts to New York City. Such an operation should be as lucrative as it gets in the United States.
Casino Companies Interested in Building
Several casino companies have signalled their interest, already. Sheldon Adelson has said he would be interested in a North Jersey casino, though he stated that interest depends on the number of casinos licensed, and the situation across the Hudson River in New York State. Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs, also has expressed interest in a North Jersey resort.
Caesars Entertainment, which made a bid on an Orange County casino in the New York State licensing process, also likely would be interested. Because Caesars has 3 casinos in Atlantic City, it is likely to have a nice argument for securing one of the mandatory AC licenses, if such a plan is passed.
International operators are likely to apply. Like Caesars Entertainment, Malaysian conglomerate Genting Limited lost out on an Orange County bid. Genting’s New York State bid likely was meant to protect its investment in Resorts World Queens, the only casino operating in New York City at the moment.
Prieto Wants “First-Class” Destinations
Vincent Prieto says an expansive proposal is the better option for New Jersey voters. In Prieto’s logic, lawmakers should be more concerned with maxing casino revenues for taxpayers and not the Atlantic City operators. Prieto said, “You want to be able to have someone who wants to come in and put a first-class entertainment destination and casino.”
Jeff Gural, who owns Meadowlands Raceway in addition to Tioga Downs, said he supports Prieto’s plan. Under the Sweeney plan, Gural’s license for Meadowlands would qualify him for selection, but he believes exclusionary tactics could lead to major opposition from out-of-state gaming operators.
Of the Sweeney plan, Jeff Gural said, “I can live with it. But I don’t think voters will go along with it. Major casino operators like Wynn will oppose it.”
For his part, Gov. Chris Christie supports Stephen Sweeney’s plan. Christie mainly wants a single vision, so the referendum can go ahead. Christie said, “It is disturbing that infighting within the Democratic party over competing gaming bills may deprive the voters of the ability to consider this question in November.”
It is the money that Las Vegas operators like Steve Wynn could spend in opposition to the Sweeney plan which could tip the balance. In an election year, many factors come into play, so eliminating forseeable problems is a good idea. Just because Steve Wynn is interested in building in North Jersey does not mean the state should cater to him, but he is just one of several major operators which might donate money to the anti-casino cause, if they feel they’ve been left out of the process and want to spike a 2016 vote in the hopes of a better plan in 2017 or 2018.
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