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New Jersey rejects casino expansion beyond Atlantic City

Thu, Nov 10, 3:08pm by Staff Writer

New Jersey voters have emphatically rejected expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City, giving the economically battered seaside resort a brief respite from a long losing streak.

The ballot, which asked whether to authorise the construction of two new casinos in separate counties in the northern part of the state near New York City, was soundly defeated.

The result was a welcome reprieve for Atlantic City, where some gambling and business executives feared new in-state competition could have led to the closure of three to five of the city’s remaining seven casinos.

Debra DiLorenzo, chairwoman of the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, told the Wall Street Journal “We are grateful to the voters of New Jersey, who by soundly defeating this constitutional amendment, spoke loudly and clearly that gaming belongs in Atlantic City, period,”

The Coaliton included casino and southern New Jersey business interests.

The ballot cannot be revisited for at least two years, but some legislators are already considering a legally questionable plan to add slot machines to racetracks at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford and Monmouth Park in Oceanport as soon as next year by classifying them as “video lottery terminals” and presenting them as a product of the already-legal state lottery.

Although the ballot didn’t specify where the casinos would be built, proposals had been floated for the Meadowlands, Jersey City and Newark. Jeff Gural, who operates the Meadowlands track, has partnered with Hard Rock International for a casino there.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” said Gural, who stopped spending money in support of the ballot question in September when it became clear it would not pass. “The opposition very cleverly tied this issue to the state government in Trenton when everyone is expressing disgust with politics. That made it virtually impossible for us to win.”

Opponents included the Malaysian owners of Resorts World casino in New York City, who spent $14.8 million on ads tying the referendum to the unpopular state government in Trenton. Proponents spent $8.5 million touting the expansion.

Five of the 12 casinos in Atlantic City have shut down in a little over two years and Supporters said the new casinos would recapture gambling dollars currently being lost to neighbouring states.

Gural said he is prepared to wait up to six years for a new referendum to go before New Jersey voters.

The ballot was held to coincide with the US Presidential election, where coincidentally Donald Trump, who invested heavily into Atlantic City’s casinos in the 1990s, was elected president.

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