Casino Expansion Referendum Troubled
Expansion Referendum Likely Will Not Pass
Voters will be asked by referendum, when they go to the polls on November 8th, about permitting gambling outside of Atlantic City. Those betting on the outcome feel that the expansion referendum will likely not pass. As a result, proponents of the project have pulled back on the support of the expansion in recent weeks.
The casino expansion referendum has become a controversial topic in recent months. Two development projects have been put on the boards for new casinos in the Meadowlands and Jersey City. These projects will create large casino resorts in the north, the first proposed outside of Atlantic City. Currently, casinos aren’t permitted outside of Atlantic City but Assemblyman Ralph Caputo set forth to change this. Caputo penned Bills that would require that the state constitution be amended to permit gaming outside of Atlantic City. Apparently, the level of opposition to the expansion referendum was underestimated by project leaders and Caputo himself.
Opposition is strong from operators in Atlantic City, the Chamber of Commerce and from casino workers. In addition, The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and the virtual casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens are also trying to ensure the referendum is defeated. To date, opponents have spent nearly $20 million to campaign against expansion.
Two recent polls were released that show that only 35% of the voters will vote in favor of the expansion referendum. Polls were conducted by Fairleigh Dickenson and Rutgers. In light of the opposition, the project developers have pulled back on the support. An effort dubbed “Our Turn NJ”, backed by the Meadowlands and Jersey City developers have halted their $10 million campaign supporting the referendum.
Jeff Gural, who is the owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack, said in a recent interview “”It doesn’t pay to keep spending money. I was prepared to guarantee $500 million and even that didn’t move the needle. There was no message that we could try that could overcome this anti-Trenton message (used by the opposition).” Despite pulling the plug on the media campaign, Gural encourages voters to vote in favor of the expansion. Thousands of jobs will be created in addition to a world class casino resort.
Won’t Go Down Easy
Regardless of the outcome of the election referendum, this will probably not be the last Garden State residents hear of casino expansion. Assemblyman Caputo is looking to modify bills previously introduced that would permit slot machines at racetracks within the state. This would be an easy work around to permit gaming expansion without the need for an additional referendum. Caputo’s rational is based on a previous ruling. In such it that states that slot machines would not require an amendment to the state constitution. Opponents of the expansion were not surprised by such a move by Caputo.