On January 7 a public hearing will be held in Trenton on one of two competing plans to offer New Jersey voters the option to authorize two new casinos in the northern part of the state.

The hearing at the Capital will be held by a state Assembly committee on a proposed referendum on the expansion of casino gambling beyond Atlantic City. So far neither house of the state Legislature has been able to agree on a measure. A public hearing was held for the Senate’s version, which would require that an existing Atlantic City operator own both of the new casinos. Only one of the new casino licenses would have to be awarded to an AC operator with the Assembly version. A decision as to which version to put before voters has yet to be reached, according to Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

Since last week’s amendment, there have been no changes to the proposed referendum. Both bills are similar in that Atlantic City’s remaining 8 casinos would be compensated for loss of business, anticipated from in-state competition, through gambling tax revenue from the new casinos. They do differ however, in just how much Atlantic City would receive, and how much of that would go towards funding programs and tax relief for the disabled and senior citizens throughout the state.

Currently, the state Constitution restricts casinos to Atlantic City, so expanding them to other areas of New Jersey would require an amendment to the Constitution. While voters won’t be deciding on which specific cities the casinos would be built in, The Meadowlands in East Rutherford and Jersey City are the two most talked about locations.

An important deadline in the legislative process passed on Tuesday December 22 when the hearing was held. The only requirement was that a majority in two legislative sessions place the measure on the ballot so that voters cold approve a change to the state’s constitution. That didn’t happen and now a three-fifths majority will be required in the session beginning in January.

One Response

  1. Steven Norton

    The New Jersey Legislature should take into consideration which casino bill would be the quickest to get North Jersey gaming in operation. Obviously, that is the bill that allows Hard Rock to partner with the Meadowlands, offering a tax rate of 55% on slot win. This location has superior access to all of North Jersey, as well as Manhattan, Staten Island and Orange Co., where NY missed it’s best casino opportunity in recent bidding, preferring to protect the Catskills.
    NJ Slots could be in operation within months of the referendum, if the proposed Legislation eliminates the requirement that both North Jersey casino have to have Atlantic City operators.
    Atlantic City has several casino developers, notably Carl Icahn, that have the balance sheets to built a destination resort; but that would be more appropriate for a second North Jersey casino, because of the timing to go thru the bidding, approval and construction of a new facility; probably 3 to 5 years.
    It’s debatable whether Atlantic City’s share of North Jersey casino tax revenues, will offset further declines in AC profitability; but it’s undeniable that future casino development in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York will. Most of the casino win of North Jersey gaming will come from East PA casinos, Parx,
    Sands Bethlehem, the Poconos; and being more convenient to Manhattan and Staten Island, from Aqueduct and Yonkers’s slots.
    Atlantic City has to find a new type of business, that prefers mid week dates, and avoids the months of July and August. That is conventions, trade shows, corporate meetings and association events, that would provide overnight demand for rooms, functions, gourmet restaurants and function space rental; all at full rates, that provide profits aside from the casino. Just look at Internet booking sites,during the off season, and you will find mid week rooms for $30 or $40 per night, that sell for $300 or more on summer weekends.
    Just compare the Venetian/ Palazzo in Vegas with AC’s top properties. Venetian occupancies are higher, room rates more than double, and casino promotional allowances about half. And they do it with group business.
    In Atlantic City, convention business can provide full rate demand on 200 mid week nights per year, in the Fall, Winter and Spring; turning the rooms and other departments into meaningful profit centers. And each meeting attendee, whose travel expenses are covered by his employer, is more affluent and has more disposable income, than the day trippers he will be replacing in the casino.
    All that AC is missing, to become a year round resort, is Air service into AC International; and the funds from a North Jersey casino could subsidize air start up, and help to promote it.

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