Will NJ voters approve casinos beyond Atlantic City?

Will NJ voters approve casinos beyond Atlantic City?

Monday, December 14, 2015 Totally Gaming
The November ballot could allow resorts to be built in two unspecified locations

New Jersey voters could be asked whether to allow the state’s first casinos outside of Atlantic City in a referendum in November 2016.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said that the ballot, which was passed by the senate on Friday but must still be approved by the state legislature, would relate to the approval of two new casinos in unspecified northern counties of New Jersey.

If voters agree to amend the state constitution to permit casinos beyond Atlantic City, it would mark the biggest change in legalised land-based gambling since casinos began operating in the coastal resort in 1978. The November 2016 vote would also come three years after the state legalised online gambling.

“The question of gaming outside of Atlantic City has long been debated,” Sweeney said. “Now is the time for the voters to decide.

“Expanding gambling to north Jersey is the best way to revitalise an industry that is important to the state's economy so that we can compete with neighbouring states, generate the revenue needed to revive Atlantic City and contribute to economic growth.”

While supporters of the plan point to the possibility of new jobs, economic uplift and increased tax revenues, opponents argue that it could add to the problems facing Atlantic City, which saw four of its 12 casinos close in 2014.

Under the draft legislation, the proposed new casinos, which are tipped to be at the Meadowlands Racetrack and Jersey City, would have to be built at least 75 miles from Atlantic City.It is proposed that tax revenue from the new casinos would be set aside to provide aid to Atlantic City because of the expected loss of business.

However, the Casino Association of New Jersey said: “The Atlantic City market finally started to stabilise in 2015, after years of cannibalisation by casinos in neighbouring states. The last thing this community needs is more competition from within our own state’s borders."

A key element of expanding casinos to northern New Jersey is having them pay a much higher tax rate than the eight per cent the Atlantic City casinos pay. Hard Rock, which has already put forward a proposal for a $1bn (€910m) casino at Meadowlands, has offered to pay 55 per cent tax.

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