New Jersey voters to decide whether to end Atlantic City’s casino monopoly

atlantic-city-casino-monopoly-referendumNew Jersey voters will decide whether to authorize casinos outside Atlantic City after state legislators approved the measure by the necessary margin.

On Monday, elected members of both of the state’s legislative chambers cast votes on the proposal to build two casinos in two different counties in the north half of the state.

In both cases, the bills were approved by the necessary 60% supermajorities to ensure a referendum question would appear on this November’s election ballot asking voters whether or not to amend the state constitution to end AC’s casino monopoly.

As for how that November vote could go, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week showed voters largely split on the issue, with 49% opposed to casino expansion and 44% in favor. Ominously, the same poll found only 22% support for the notion that “Atlantic City’s best days are yet to come.”

Both supporters and opponents of casino expansion are expected to wage a fierce lobbying battle ahead of November’s vote. Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian publicly rubbished legislators’ assurances that a portion of the new casinos’ tax revenue would go to developing AC’s non-gaming amenities, predicting that three of AC’s eight remaining casinos would close if faced with new in-state competition.

Speaking of those eight casinos, they reported net brick-and-mortar gaming revenue – not including the month’s online gambling revenue haul – rising 13% to $190m in February, a nice rebound from January’s inauspicious start to the year.

Six of the eight casinos were net gainers in February, led by perennial top dog the Borgata, which saw revenue rise 30.6% to $58.6m, exactly twice the $29.3m (+7.1%) earned by runner-up Harrah’s. Third-place finisher Caesars was one of February’s two losing properties, falling 8.3% to $22.6m.

The rest of the field finished as follows; Tropicana ($22.1m, +13.8%), Bally’s ($17.1m, +19.3%), Golden Nugget ($15.6m, +7.9%) and Resorts ($12.4m, +16.1%) while the struggling Trump Taj Mahal was the month’s other decliner, falling 0.2% to $12.1m.

AC wasn’t the only casino market in the black in February. The dozen casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania reported slot machine revenue up 9.3% to $200.2m. In an impressive show of solidarity, all 12 casinos were in positive territory for the month, with the Parx Casino topping the charts as usual with $33.1m.

In Maryland, the state’s five casinos reported revenue of $93.3m in February, a 12.7% improvement over the same month last year. Top operator Maryland Live! reported revenue rising 15% to $54m while Horseshoe Casino Baltimore gained 8.8% to $25m.