Meadowlands Racetrack Owner Jeff Gural and ex-Reebok International head Paul Fireman were the two key developers pushing for the North Jersey casino referendum, which would allow them to develop two casinos outside of Atlantic City. The referendum, which goes to vote this November, is unlikely to be approved after different polls show that New Jersey voters are not in favor of the North Jersey referendum.

Gural and Fireman, who are the main backers of the ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign, decided to withdraw their support towards the end of September after an internal poll showed that support for the referendum had declined from 50 percent to 37 percent. The Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC), which backed the referendum, expressed disappointment when Gural and Fireman pulled out, but promised to continue its campaign to push for casinos in North Jersey.

Now Gural has announced plans to host an open forum on October 19 in Bayonne which is being organized by the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce. The forum will commence at 8.30 am and attempt to provide New Jersey voters with accurate information; clear the air over all the media speculation and allow attendees to ask questions of Gural and Jason Settlemoir, who is the Meadowlands Racetrack and Winners general manager. The open forum is yet another attempt to sway New Jersey voters and educate them about the possible benefits of developing two new casinos in North Jersey.

Some of the proponents of the North Jersey referendum have been critical over the fact that there has been a lack of specific information regarding the exact locations of the two North Jersey casinos, the amount of gambling taxes it would generate for the state and how those funds would be used to develop the local communities and municipalities. They believe that since voters in New Jersey do not have this information, they will not be inclined to vote in favor of the North Jersey referendum.

However, the polls show that the majority of voters in New Jersey will not allow their decisions to be influenced by the additional information. A Rutgers poll conducted in September 2016 showed that out of those surveyed, only 5 percent would actually change their decision based on the location of the casino. Should the North Jersey referendum fall through, it will require a period of two years to pass before legislators can once again put the referendum on the ballot. Gural has confirmed that if the referendum fails in November, he will continue the campaign after two years.

Jay Coffey, the Bayonne Law Director and mayor of Oceanport where the iconic Monmouth Park Racetrack is located, has been one of the biggest critics for the casino expansion proposal. So far Coffey has not commented on the open forum in Bayonne or confirmed if he plans to attend the forum.

One Response

  1. Steven Norton

    New Jersey really needs to study the likely impacts of one or two casino in North Jersey. Because all of the studies, that I have seen comments from, are obviously paid for by North Jersey opponents.
    I have seen reports that Atlantic City will loose $1.3 billion more in casino win, 20,000 jobs and 3 or more casino closings. My review of the population demographics in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the communities convenient to Yonkers and Aqueduct; shows 28 million residents, 9 million in the State of New Jersey. But when you analyze the convenience of the Meadowlands to North/ Central New Jersey, plus Manhattan, Staten Island and Orange Co. NY; there would be more population support for a Meadowlands casino than even Aqueduct. And when you look at the population convenient to Atlantic City, 517,000 persons; you begin to realize that only 2% of the 28 million are closer to Atlantic City, than another gaming facility. And I have removed the population of Maryland and Delaware, with their own casinos; because they are not convenient to a North Jersey casino.
    Person wishing to visit a casino, during the week, would prefer a round trip of 2 hours or less, rather then possibly 5 hours to AC, so our problem is to find business, that will pay rack rates, mid-week, and not need the comps and discounting, that now takes place in AC.
    When I compare the 23 larger Las Vegas Strip resorts, occupancy and average room rates, to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City; you can see the benefits of the convention trades to Vegas resorts (92% and $163) versus the B W (77% and $92). In addition, Atlantic City comps over 50% of their rooms, compared to the Strips 18%; and that doesn’t include the 80% to 90% room discounts offered mid-week in the off season.
    AC, today, is mimicking Las Vegas in the 1950’s and 60’s, when all departments were loss leaders for the casino, ant the win represented 70% or more of the resort revenues (AC is still at 70%). In fact, today, the larger Strip properties get less than 35% of their revenues from the casino, and only 23% of the departmental income.
    Based on the 28 million persons, that are in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and in support of Yonkers and Aqueduct, a Meadowlands casino would be more convenient to a lager part of the market than even Aqueduct, now winning $800 million just from slot machines.
    St Louis, with a metropolitan population of 2.7 million wins over a $1 billion a year, or around $400 per person. The North East, with over 10 times the population and more average affluence, could easily exceed $11 billion in casino win, as convenience is improved in the North East. And I am not including the businessmen and convention attendees, staying mid-week AT 98,700 rooms on Manhattan, or visitors on weekends, an estimated 35 million guest nights. But the positive news for a Meadowlands casino, only 15 minutes by car, bus, limo or rail from Midtown, is the estimated 20 million guest nights of businessmen and convention attendees, looking for different kinds of mid-week entertainment, including gaming.
    AC must change its business model and embrace city wide conventions and medium sized trade shows. In the 1980’s when I served as Chairman of the ACCVB, no casino resorts wanted city wide conventions, only those that they could keep in house. With Harrah’s, Claridge and Resorts adding convention space and now with MGM owning 100% of Borgata, I expect a greater push for conventions, trade shows, corporate meetings and association events, in the future of Atlantic City.
    We also need to attract air service, that brings customers to AC International, rather than taking South Jersey and Philadelphia residents on cheap flights to Florida. When I look around the South, with few casinos, I find 96 flights a day, going from Atlanta, just to Las Vegas, a potential 5 million one way seats annually; to a gaming destination 3 time zones away and more than twice the distance as AC. .


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