Gambling in New Jersey: What to do?
New York now “going all in” for a NYC casino?
There had long been talk about revitalizing New Jersey by legalizing gambling in places other than Atlantic City in order to better compete with the Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York casinos that have sprouted up – and taken revenue away from NJ – over the last decade. The Meadowlands was one place being considered, but has long been hung up in debate and is nowhere close to becoming reality.
Some folks say that would be a epic disaster – while others (most likely gamblers) support it.
Regardless, it seems like momentum is picking up to have more gambling options closer to Hoboken and the rest of the tri-state area.
NJ Gambling: Cutting off the nose to spite the face?
The whole gambling debate in New Jersey is a prime example of how politics can cause the overall demise of the general populous.
As far as I see it – NJ State Officials have a conundrum to deal with. And I’ll try to sum it up as best as I know.
- Full “Casino” operations are only allowed in Atlantic City.
- Horse Racing is more prevalent, with locations in the Meadowlands, Freehold, Monmouth and AC.
- Surrounding states have passed laws to permit full (or partial) casino operations, such as:
- New York (5300 slot machines added to Yonkers Raceway)
- Pennsylvania (multiple casinos, including Sands Bethlehem (slots, table), Mohegan Sun, Mount Airy Lodge, and several Philadelphia casinos)
- Connecticut (Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods – for those north & east)
- Casino revenue is down significantly for Atlantic City. The top casinos (Borgata, Harrah’s) are surviving, but the remaining casinos (plus one under construction – Revel) have an uncertain future.
South vs. North: Politics at Play
The problem is, that all these new slot parlors and casinos like Yonkers could make Atlantic City that much less attractive by virtue of convenience. Perhaps those with an eye towards “payouts” look more seriously towards Atlantic City which is reported to be the best in America, but it’s safe to say that New Jersey’s Atlantic City casino traffic is driven more by the fact that it once stood as a relative island in an area without another comparable destination. Other luxury casino destinations within a few hours have begun to erode that mystique and unique draw, and for that reason future decisions are critical.
Lazy gamblers think they’re one spin, hand or bet away from the big jackpot. This is the reason why “closer” casinos appeal to the reckless money-spender. If they can make it to Yonkers in less than 30 minutes – “why not?”
Governor Christie – as well as many other top political power players have been “debating” (i.e., discussing side deals, or “what’s in it for ME,” etc.) over the past few weeks – about how to handle the future of gambling and racing in New Jersey. The powerhouses (and their voter base) in South Jersey would dread if full casino operations were allowed in places such as the Meadowlands. It would mean the certain demise of several big-name casinos on the strip. No doubt. If the Governor passes this – his “support group” would also be in jeopardy.
Do it for the family, Christie! Cut your losses!
However, I like looking at this from a macro-type perspective. That dictates that New Jersey consider a little precedent: what have other states done where competing casino (and major tourist and revenue-driving locations) existed in a balance with one another? Maybe it’s best to disregard the individual local economies and re-invent the state top to bottom to remain a viable entity – gambling or otherwise.
In my opinion—with the exception of a few world-class casinos, Atlantic City is a struggling city in dire need a more diverse and sustainable economy. It could even re-invent itself as a place for corporations to re-locate if tax benefits were favorable. Unfortunately, despite what former AC officials thought would make the city a “world class destination,” the city has more financial disparity than practically any other city in America. You walk a few blocks from any casino on the strip, and you’re in the ghetto. The city needs a makeover. Politicians may be good at talking the talk, but they don’t always comprehend urban planning in the same way as those who understand its impacts. Then they go on to hire a “connected” professional—one with degrees and certifications—but not someone who has a real understanding of the theory and long term impacts of decisions.
Pull out the stops, make NJ a gambling mecca!
At the possible expense of Atlantic City, the right thing for Christie to do is most likely allow full casinos to come to the Meadowlands “Xanadu” disaster that has plagued news headlines with never-ending setbacks over the past few years. It’s also most likely advantageous to do it wholeheartedly, as opposed to “half-way.” Just adding slots to a racetrack may not cut it. Build another Borgata up north. Not only will this draw larger crowds than all other surrounding casinos – it’ll help fortify Northern NJ as another place to go for top-notch gambling. A full casino destination – along with NYC sightseeing, would be an attractive stop for many world travelers.
It’s certain that some of the low-end casinos in Atlantic City would suffer a tragic demise. But that blow can be lessened if you think outside the box.
One Hoboken411 reader and I had a debate about this as well – and he mentioned (as I suggested earlier) that failed casinos need not necessarily be imploded, but could instead be included within a complex of office space, or premium housing. As a place to live and work, Atlantic City is a great location—right off a major highway and with a beautiful view of the marshes inland and the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of decimating quality hi-rise buildings because gamblers don’t want to play there anymore – be creative, and convert them to mixed use.
Offices, condos, and other operations would be happy to re-locate to Atlantic City if the proper incentives were there. Long-term tax breaks would inject the local economy to some degree – and with an international airport nearby, it’s not entirely unfeasible.
Would it be smart for NJ to allow full-fledged casinos at other locations besides Atlantic City?
North Jersey Casino Talk
Are you for or against a Meadowlands Casino?
Another blatant sign that the state economy is in big, big trouble – when chatter increases about putting a full-fledged casino in the Meadowlands.
We already know how screwed up the Xanadu Project is, but will a bonafide casino up north ignite the state economy?
Sarlo proposes casino for Meadowlands
The Meadowlands needs a world-class casino — not just a “racino” with video lottery terminals — state Sen. Paul Sarlo, a longtime proponent of racinos, suggested Tuesday during a conference about the horse-racing industry’s woes.
“Could you imagine a high-end, full-fledged casino in the Meadowlands?” Sarlo, who also is mayor Wood-Ridge, asked during a panel discussion presented by the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lyndhurst. “The revenue stream created in the shadow of New York City would be magnificent. We’re beyond [just] VLTs at this point. If we are to do this, we need to do it right.”
The panel — which also included state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth and three leading New Jersey horse industry officials — analyzed what should be done about the state’s horse racing struggles. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is facing a $22 million loss on operations this year at the Meadowlands Racetrack and at Monmouth Park.
Sports authority Chairman Carl Goldberg, a prominent real estate executive, was asked at the conference how attractive the Meadowlands Sports Complex could be to possible casino developers.
“The number is almost incalculable,” Goldberg said. “This would be the most valuable parcel of real estate for the expansion of gaming, maybe not only in the U.S., but the world.”
Beck, who also has supported the introduction of VLTs at the racetracks, focused Tuesday on adding “more diversified gambling” to the tracks. She said that could include keno, slots or table games at tracks — and maybe even legalized gambling elsewhere, such as keno at taverns.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said that he would talk to Sarlo about the concept.
“I’m not supportive of expanding casinos all throughout the state at this time,” Sweeney said, noting that it would take a statewide referendum to end Atlantic City’s monopoly on gaming.
“If it’s just a shift [of revenues], I’m concerned about [the casino operators] abandoning Atlantic City. And if you start talking about the Meadowlands, then what about Jersey City, Newark and about depressed communities that would benefit [from building a casino]?”
Sweeney also said he doesn’t support Beck’s concepts.
Governor Christie’s transition team report on state gaming concluded last week that officials should analyze the possible effect of VLTs on the state’s ailing horseracing industry. But he said on the campaign trail that Atlantic City’s casino problems need to be addressed before considering gaming elsewhere.
The panelists each pointed to the fact that Pennsylvania and New York have been earning hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years from New Jersey residents who find it more convenient to go to Yonkers Raceway’s slots parlors or to new casinos in Bethlehem, Pa., and near Philadelphia.
“There has been a great expansion of gaming in a five-state region, and the state of New Jersey did nothing, absolutely nothing,” Beck said. “The Atlantic City casinos did nothing. The horseracing industry did nothing. And, as a result, we’ve seen a decline across the board of gaming in the state of New Jersey.”
Beck said the Atlantic City casinos’ dire struggles during the past 18 months should make them reconsider their longtime opposition to gaming in North Jersey.