NJ casino supporters end PR campaign

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 23, 2016

Though a referendum on the expansion of casino gambling to northern New Jersey will remain on the November ballot this year, a media campaign to push for it was officially suspended Sept. 22.

The statement was issued by entities that plan to build casinos, including Meadowlands, which is operated by Jeff Gural. Backers of the “OUR Turn NJ” campaign cited poll results that indicate voters will reject the constitutional amendment that would create casinos outside of Atlantic City.

“We believe deeply that gaming expansion to northern New Jersey is a remarkable opportunity that should not be squandered,” the statement reads. “We have committed $4 billion in private investment to this state to create world-class resort destinations with gaming. The benefits include 43,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in recaptured revenue-a rare opportunity for New Jersey.

“In addition, as New York debates allowing gaming in New York City, it is critical that we beat them to market or risk losing this opportunity permanently. The data, however, speaks for itself. The current political climate in New Jersey and voters’ concerns about the lack of details relating to the effort have proved overwhelming.”

New Jersey’s horse racing industry would get at least 2% of new casino revenue according to legislation passed earlier this year. The industry, however, would like a larger percentage included in any enabling legislation in order for the revenue to have a positive impact.

Monmouth Park isn’t eligible for a casino under geographical restrictions designed to protect Atlantic City gaming operations. Officials in Oceanport, where the track is located, have gone on the record as opposing passage of the casino referendum.

Gural, in a televised interview Sept. 22 from the Delaware County Fair in Ohio, urged New Jersey residents to vote for passage of the constitutional amendment even though the campaign has been pulled. He said support is needed to ensure the measure is on the ballot for 2018, which would be the next possible opportunity.

A large chunk of new casino revenue would go to prop up Atlantic City. Gural indicated he wouldn’t support that aspect of the plan in the future.

The New Jersey racing industry at one time received money each year from the casinos for purse supplements in exchange for tracks not seeking casino-style gaming, but Gov. Chris Christie ended the practice. Monmouth and Meadowlands are now operated private under a lease arrangement with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

Racing’s base share of 2% from new casinos is viewed as completely inadequate to support Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing and breeding in the state. Based on previous casino-paid supplements, roughly $25 million to $30 million a year would be needed to help New Jersey compete with neighboring states, all of which have racetrack gaming.

(Photo by Tom LaMarra)