The Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau (MLCVB) a proponent of expanding casinos into the northern part of New Jersey released information Friday afternoon pointing to a possibility that the odds may not be so bad for those who want to see two new casino resorts in the state.

The release linked to an online poll conducted by NJ.com showing participants favoring casinos by a wide margin. The numbers were at 77.49% “Yes” (3,240 votes) to 22.51% “No” (941 votes) when we checked the results about 6pm ET.

Although the methodology may be less than scientific (we were able to vote once each way without even clearing cookies) it may give fuel to those wanting to get out the vote either way.

Paul Fireman seeks to open Liberty Rising in Jersey City with plans to draw half his customers “over the water” from NY, and Jeff Gural is looking to bring Hard Rock to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford.

“All the polls showing a devastating loss for the Referendum are called into question now, and it is no wonder as they were all done by South Jersey interests,” said Ron Simoncini, Executive Director for the North Jersey Gaming Advocates. “North Jersey Casino supporters; this tells us it’s not over. We have been bullied into not voting or voting no by casino owners from New York protecting their own interests with scandalously false advertising and their partners from South Jersey who are unadvisedly holding onto this pipe dream that Atlantic City is coming back,” according to the release.

Although previous polling may have been commissioned by out of state casino interests protecting their markets, the methodology of the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll should be considered viable and unbiased in the absence of any specific weighting or balancing that could sully the results. Rutgers New Brunswick Center for Public Interest Polling is a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research Transparency Initiative, and as such, their website clearly states the methodology used.

The MLCVB information campaign goes on to state that, “The truth is that despite the claims in their evil commercial, the introduction of this Referendum does not add to crime, it does not allow casinos to be built in any location, it will not increase property taxes and it has nothing to do with the performance of our schools,” and concludes, “The problem is that we in New Jersey are so discouraged by our own government that we are willing to believe almost anything no matter how ridiculous. It is the same thing as any other con – from Bernie Madoff to Charles Ponzi – they say it convincingly and we fall for it, only to pay a heavy price later.”

World Casino News editors have reviewed several video commercials from North Jersey casino opponent, Trenton’s Bad Bet, and although they do seem to be playing to voter discouragement with government, lack of trust in lawmakers, fears of job losses and economic calamity, school cuts, infrastructure cuts, and increases in property taxes, we have not seen some of the tactics used in other campaigns such as fear mongering about crime, prostitution, and drugs. One reason for that could be that a major funding source for Trenton’s Bad Bet is Resorts World Casino New York, and one of the other opponent groups, “No North Jersey Casinos” counts as its most prominent members the Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, whose interests obviously align with those of Atlantic City casinos. Another reason those tactics may not be in play is that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find valid studies that support the view that casinos bring such blights to their communities.

One of the adverts begins with a nightmarish fog of images and music with a voice-over telling viewers about the loss of 3,000 jobs along with the closure of Taj Mahal. While that property may have fallen into disrepair, most people in the state are aware of the reasons for its demise. Many may not be aware of other profitable casinos that closed for various reasons or the deals made by other operators and deed restrictions put in place in order to reduce competition in Atlantic City so the remaining casinos would have a better chance.

What the commercials don’t do is explain how or why opening two casinos in North Jersey, each with a minimum $1 billion investment and available first to existing Atlantic City operators, would create the sort of economic hellscape the advertisements portend.

The singular known economic impact study on the issue, prepared by gaming analysts at the request of Resorts Casino, is where the numbers are to be found. However, the study was one-sided and incomplete in that it, “did not analyze or quantify the offsetting economic impacts of casino expansion in northern New Jersey,” according to the 110-page document’s Executive Summary (PDF). The study’s conclusion was apocalyptic and predicted either a contraction of industry EBITDA to some $195 million at best (from then current $404 million) or the closure of three to five Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey voters will go to the polls Tuesday without all of the information they need to make a completely rational decision. So far over $24 million has been spent by both sides to earn hearts and minds at the ballot box, and if you look at the most scientific of polls (Monmouth in June and Rutgers-Eagleton in Nov.) it seems the trend is to deny Question 1. If the constitutional amendment goes down to defeat, casino advocates and their adversaries will have two years to sharpen their game plans, influence lawmakers in crafting a new law, and commission the truly comprehensive studies that New Jersey voters will likely insist upon.

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