Ever since New Jersey legalized the casino industry in 1976, Atlantic City has had a monopoly on the industry as casinos were not allowed in any other cities. While this model has worked well for New Jersey in the past, the last couple of years has the Atlantic City’s casino industry dwindle and resulted in the closure of four out of the twelve casinos located in the area.
As a result, lawmakers in New Jersey have been pushing for casinos to be setup outside of Atlantic City for the first time and a new bill has been proposed to construct two casinos in North Jersey. The bill gained momentum on the 14th of March after it was approved in both the state senate and the state assembly.
The SCR1/ACR1 bill got a 34-6 vote in the state senate and a 54-15 vote in the state Assembly with three legislators absent from the voting process. There were initially some concerns that the bill would not get past the state Assembly as some legislators believed that setting up two new casinos in North Jersey would cause even more harm to Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry.
Now that the bill has been passed in both houses, it will be left to the citizens of New Jersey to vote on the November 8 ballot and decide if they want to move casinos outside of Atlantic City. The bill, which is supported by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), proposed to send $200 million in taxes from each of the new casinos to Atlantic City.
Caputo believes that the two new casinos would help to develop North Jersey by creating thousands of new jobs and generating significant revenue which can be used for further development. The two new casinos would also put North Jersey on the map for its entertainment facilities and help boost tourism numbers. Those in favor of moving casinos to North Jersey also believe that it will help the garden state to compete with casinos in neighbouring states.
Not everyone is in favor of the new bill though. Assemblyman Chris A. Brown (R-Atlantic) voted against moving casinos outside of Atlantic City and believes the move will not help Atlantic City in any way. In a statement, Brown said “It’s only going to increase and speed up competition we don’t have now. If we build in an over-saturated market, they will not come.”
There are also legislators like Assemblywoman Holly Schepesi (R-Bergen) who are not happy with all of the details proposed in the new bill especially on how the $200 million should be utilized. Schepesi does not want the money to go to Atlantic City but wants it to be spent on other urgent matters such as the state’s Transportation Trust Fund which is running on empty and increasing pensions.