The battle in the Garden State over a November casino referendum is heating up as a group of South Jersey leaders has come together to form the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, a group that promises a “formidable” spending effort aimed at defeating this coming fall’s ballot question which would allow for as many as two casinos to be built in Northern New Jersey.
The formation of the alliance was announced on Monday at a Statehouse news conference in Trenton. There the alliance of public officials, business, labor leaders, and citizens provided data on an economic study the group released that states as many as five Atlantic City casinos would be lost if the November referendum is successful. President and CEO at Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, Debra DiLorenzo, who is also the coalition’s chairwoman, along with Bob McDevitt, Local 54 president, Resorts Casino Hotel CEO Mark Giannantonio, Joe Kelly, the president of Greater Atlantic City Chamber, as well as other local leaders, were featured at the news conference.
DiLorenzo said, “Our business and labor communities and residents feel strongly about protecting the Atlantic City gaming industry’s 38-year legacy that has provided so many families with good paying jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues,” and, “The coalition and its members will work vigorously to defeat the ballot question on Nov. 8,” as reported by the Press of Atlantic City. DiLorenzo said on Monday that the budget and advertising strategy of her campaign is being weighed but that it is prepared to spend what it takes to win, saying, “I would use the term ‘formidable,” and, “We know the other side is going to spend heavily on this.”
Meanwhile, on June 3, more than a hundred labor union officials, business leaders, construction workers, and politicians including Senate President Steve Sweeney held a news conference in Rutherford at the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce office to support the November referendum that would remove the city’s 40-year old monopoly over the casino industry in the state.
On March 14, the resolution to put the casino question on the ballot was passed by both houses of the state Legislature putting the fate of the gaming landscape in New Jersey in the hands of the state’s voters. Currently, gambling is limited to Atlantic City, where casinos were legalized in 1976 and it was for decades the premier gambling destination on the East Coast. Due to increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, however, in recent years the once iconic boardwalk resort has seen four casinos close. Proponents say that bringing casinos to North Jersey would increase the state’s competitiveness in the northeast gaming market and bring in thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue. Those opposed say the plan would most likely result in more casinos in Atlantic City closing.
If voters approve the plan, up to $200 million per year in taxes from the new casino would be given to Atlantic City, which over time would decrease, to help it offset any losses it may incur due to the new north Jersey casinos. The state’s new casinos would also be required to be at least 72 miles away from the city and be in separate counties.