EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – New Jersey lawmakers have proposed a statewide referendum in November asking voters whether to approve two new casinos in the northern part of the state, near New York City. The idea is to recapture gamblers who have been leaving Atlantic City for casinos in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. Here’s a brief look at the proposal:
Two new casinos in separate counties more than 70 miles from Atlantic City. Each would have to cost at least $1 billion.
The bill does not specify locations; that would be done by the legislature in so-called “enabling legislation” either before — or more likely after — voters decide whether to approve the new casinos. Leading candidates so far are the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford, and in Jersey City, the state’s second-largest city, just across the river from Manhattan. Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural has forecast a casino at his track would generate $400 million to $500 million a year in new taxes for the state at the 55 per cent tax rate he is willing to pay. New Jersey lawmakers have not set a tax rate; Atlantic City’s casinos pay 8 per cent.
Atlantic City’s casino industry has been in a free-fall for nearly a decade; its revenue plunged from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.56 billion last year, and four of its 12 casinos closed in 2014. The north Jersey casinos intend to take back gambling revenue lost to other states and provide new tax revenue to New Jersey.
The casino operators, workers who get jobs at the new facilities and businesses that supply them; the host communities and the state’s horse racing industry, each of which would get 2 per cent of the tax revenue generated by the new casinos; and senior citizens and the disabled, who would see tax relief and new programs funded by the casino taxes. Atlantic City also would get about $200 million a year at first, though that amount would dwindle as time goes by.
Casinos in New York, eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut all could be affected by the new north Jersey casinos, and Atlantic City undoubtedly will be.