The Battle For North Jersey Casinos Continues

Updated on September 19, 2016
Trenton's Bad Bet

Trenton's Bad BetIf you’ve watched television lately in the state of New Jersey, there is a good chance you’ve seen a recent anti-North Jersey casino advertisement featuring Rockaway Township Councilwoman Patty Abrahamsen.

The advertisement attacked the referendum stating that Patty Abrahamsen trusted her pension would be there for her family, but that the Trenton politicians broke their promise. Instead of funding pensions, the politicians gave big contracts to Wall Street.

The advertisement then goes on to say North Jersey casinos would be no different. Politicians would break promises, special interests groups would get rich and, when the casinos fail, we (the residents of New Jersey) would pay the price.

The group responsible for the September 6, 2016 advertisement, Trenton’s Bad Bet, describes itself as “a diverse collection of concerned New Jersey community leaders, unions, businesses and residents.”

At the time of this writing, the airwaves have been dominated with anti-casino advertisements, but the proponents for the referendum are expected to pick up the slack as we head further into September.

Who’s leading the pro-North Jersey casino fight?

The Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey have hired MWW, a leading East Rutherford-based public relations firm to advocate for the passage of the referendum which would allow for two casinos to be constructed in the area between New Brunswick to the New York state line.

The SBOANJ have stated that they will task MWW with the following:

Convincing the public to vote favorably for the ballot question through a series of public relations, media, and advertising events sanctioned by SBOANJ. Additionally, the firm also will highlight individual Association members and the benefit they bring to their towns and communities.

If the referendum passes in November, according to a website created by Our Turn NJ, construction would begin on a $4 billion dollar luxury complex located at 100 Caven Point Road.

The complex, created by billionaire Reebok founder Paul Fireman, would be a “world-class resort with gaming that will bring jobs and economic opportunity to Jersey City and the surrounding region.”

Early polls seem to suggest that voters aren’t in favor of the expansion, but the margin is close and as we get closer to the November vote, the issue is bound to heat up – and additional voters will make up their minds.

According to Matthew Hale, a Seton Hall University political scientist, some parts of New Jersey may get to play a deciding role in determining the fate of the issue:

The casino ballot initiative really is going to be a fight between the north and the south, and maybe Middlesex County and Monmouth County get to play the tiebreakers about how that’s going to go.

The role of NJ online gambling in the debate

It’s not clear exactly how online gambling in New Jersey would or wouldn’t change should expansion move ahead.

Much would depend on the companies that end up populating the expanded area if the initiative meets with success; if it’s simply an extension of Atlantic City operators like Caesars, Tropicana, and the Borgata, then the question becomes moot.

But if new operators enter the fray, they may want access to the online market along with Atlantic City’s casinos, a demand that could prove contentious given the legal and regulatory structure of New Jersey’s market for regulated online casino and poker.

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