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New Jersey Discussing Constitutionality of Meadowlands Casino

21 July 2012 by Devon Chappell

New Jersey is not stranger to online gambling. Or, at least New Jersey is not stranger to considering the prospects of online gambling. Falling short of a signature from Governor Chris Christie, online gambling regulatory legislation intended to revitalize Atlantic City, horseracing and New Jersey’s brick ‘n mortar gambling industry as a whole, now appears to be taking a backseat to other plans.

In an attempt to reclaim New Jersey’s position as the premier spot for East Coast gambling, state lawmakers discussed on Thursday the merits of a constitutional amendment that would allow for a casino at the Meadowlands facility in Rutherford.  While advocates believe state residents would welcome such a move, as reported back in April, the idea has been met with strong opposition due to the perceived threat that a Meadowlands casino would pose to Atlantic City’s casino industry.

For over three decades, Atlantic City has been the only place to gamble in New Jersey – though, unfortunately for the Garden State, AC no longer enjoys the distinction of being the only East Coast city to offer legal gambling.  Newer casinos in neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Delaware have provided costly competition to Atlantic City casinos.  As a result, New Jersey finds itself now ranking fourth in the nation in terms of gambling revenue after years of following only Nevada in that category.

While discussing the state’s gambling industry, Sebastian Sinclair, president at Christiansen Capital Advisors, summed things up with, “It’s been a bad decade for New Jersey.

The addition of a Meadowlands casino is seen by many as the best option for attracting back gamblers that have strayed away to neighboring states.

If a casino were to come to the Meadowlands Sports Complex, it would join MetLife Stadium, the Izod Center and the Meadowlands Racetrack.  Advocates argue that a new casino would be the perfect compliment to a football stadium, a basketball arena and a horse racetrack.  In fact, Jeffrey Gural, the new owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack, has come out in strong favor of the idea.  Gural has even suggested that his racetrack’s long-term survival is tied to whether or not a casino comes to the Meadowlands.

One of the major obstacles facing the Meadowlands casino initiative is that Gov. Chris Christie has sided clearly against it.  The Governor has expresses his unwillingness to jeopardize an effort already underway to revitalize Atlantic City’s casino industry by creating dangerous competition within the state.

New Jersey in many ways is dependent on a vital casino industry in Atlantic City.  The casinos in Atlantic City officially generate over 30,000 jobs for the state – and that number dramatically increases when jobs created indirectly by Atlantic City casinos are factored in.

Gov. Christie has supported various state expenditures intended to help restore Atlantic City to its former glory.  One example of this was a multi-million dollar advertising campaign designed to attract gamblers back to New Jersey.  The state also provided hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives to help get the Revel casino, a $2.4 billion behemoth, back on track and ultimately completed.

Unfortunately, the Revel has so far disappointed in regards to projected revenues.  One might guess that this could eventually lead Gov. Christie to reconsider his position regarding the Meadowland casino proposal.  Especially when the state budget, adopted just last month, counts on nearly $300 million from casino generated revenues.

That money will need to come from somewhere.  And while at the moment, the Governor and others are firm in their position that Atlantic City casinos should not have to contend with competition from within the state.  If gambling revenues continue to decline in Atlantic City, as they have for the last six years, the Meadowlands casino concept may look more and more attractive.

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