As the November 8 deadline approaches for voters in New Jersey to decide whether they want the North Jersey casino referendum approved or not, campaigns for and against the referendum continue to spend heavily in an attempt to sway voters to see things their way. Voters will decide next week whether they want to develop casinos outside of Atlantic City and break the city’s monopoly over the casino industry.
The state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) recently confirmed that when the spending for both campaigns was combined, it showed that $24 million has been spent so far making it a new record in New Jersey. About two weeks ago, ELECT released a report showing that the Trenton Bad Bet campaign which is against the referendum had spent $11.3 million and the Our Turn NJ campaign had pumped in around $8.5 million.
The Our Turn NJ campaign spent an additional $100,000 during the past two weeks and their limited spending was down to the fact that their chief financial backers Paul Fireman and Jeff Gural decided to stop funding the campaign as polling showed that the majority of voters were not in favor of the referendum. Fireman had earlier proposed to build a $4 billion Liberty Rising casino resort in Jersey City while Gural wanted to develop a casino at the Meadowlands facility in partnership with HardRock International.
Although the polls have shown that the referendum is highly unlikely to be approved, it hasn’t slowed down the spending of Trenton’s Bad Bet, who spent nearly $3.1 million during the last two weeks. The campaign has a number of influential financial backers that have ties to the Atlantic City and New York casino markets.
In a statement, Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director said “The spending on statewide and local ballot questions by independent groups follows a recent trend witnessed in state and local elections. This increased spending by outside groups in state and local elections threatens the historic role played by political parties and the ability of candidates to control their own campaigns”.
Recent results from the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed that more than 70 percent of voters in New Jersey were not in favor of moving casinos outside of Atlantic City. Our Turn NJ has promised to continue its campaign as it wants to make certain that there are no surprises in the end. ELEC has confirmed that the previous record for spending on a statewide ballot was $5.6 million back in 1976 when voters decided to allow casinos to operate in Atlantic City.