The state of New Jersey will vote on the referendum to open two new casinos in North Jersey this November and the ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign was pushing hard to educate voters of the benefits the two new casinos could bring to North Jersey. Meadowlands racetrack owner Jeff Gural wanted to partner with the Hard Rock International to develop a casino at the racetrack in the East Rutherford sports complex and billionaire Paul Fireman wanted to develop a $5 billion casino resort in Jersey City.
Fireman and Gural who were the main backers of the ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign announced this week that they had decided to suspend their campaign after an internal poll showed that voters were not likely to vote in favor of moving casinos out of Atlantic City. They released a joint statement confirming that they have suspended their campaign as the measure was very unlikely to pass. The internal polling carried out for ‘Our Turn NJ’ showed that support dropped from 50 percent to just 37 percent.
The ‘Our Turn NJ’ campaign had to compete with a much bigger campaign called ‘No North Jersey Casinos’ who were in favor of restricting casinos to Atlantic City. The campaign was backed by Atlantic City union workers, local businessmen, and the Malaysian-based Genting Group who operate Resorts World casino in New York City. Mark Giannantonio, the hotel president for Resorts World and a leader of the campaign stated that they will continue their campaign until Election Day and keep educating the people of New Jersey that moving gaming outside of Atlantic City was a bad idea for the garden state.
In a statement, Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic said “I am glad after two years of fighting we’ve proven it was pure folly for anyone to claim North Jersey casinos were inevitable and that building them in an oversaturated market while cannibalizing Atlantic City would somehow help the state of New Jersey let alone the families of Atlantic County, and shows the question should have never gotten on the ballot in the first place.”
The Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC) who backed the referendum to open two new casinos in North Jersey expressed disappointed that Gural and Fireman had suspended their campaign. MRCC has stated that they will continue their efforts to bring casinos to North Jersey. Jim Kirkos, Meadowlands Regional Chamber president and CEO called on all interested parties from the education, finance, labor and racing industries to get in touch with their constituencies and continue to fight for casinos in North Jersey. Kirkos even called on casino operators in Atlantic City who were interested in the North Jersey referendum to continue to support the referendum.
However with the two main North Jersey casino developers calling it quits before the vote, the momentum has definitely slowed down. Should the referendum fail, legislators will have to wait till 2018 before the referendum can be placed on the ballot once again.