New Jersey’s casinos look set to remain confined to Atlantic City after north Jersey casino supporters suspended their campaign to win voters over to their side.
On Thursday, the main backers of the push to launch two new casinos in the northern part of New Jersey suspended their OUR Turn NJ campaign, which had been running TV and radio ads intended to encourage voters to approve the referendum question on November’s election ballot.
When New Jersey first approved casino gaming in 1976, the state constitution restricted casino gambling to within Atlantic City’s borders. A voter referendum is therefore required before the restriction can be amended. But recent polling showed a broad majority of New Jersey voters remained unsold on the merits of further casino expansion.
Sensing doom, Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural and former Reebox CEO Paul Fireman, who wanted to build separate casinos in different areas of north Jersey, released a joint statement on Thursday saying the poll data “speaks for itself.”
The pair, who’d drummed up $4b in private investment to make their casino dreams a reality, said they remained convinced that allowing casinos outside Atlantic City was “a remarkable opportunity that should not be squandered.”
However, “the current political climate in New Jersey and voters’ concerns about the lack of details relating to the effort have proved overwhelming.” Fireman and Gural said questions over where the new casinos would be built and how the state’s tax revenue would be allocated contributed to voters’ lack of enthusiasm.
The statement also referenced casino firm Genting, whose US subsidiary operates the Resorts World Aqueduct just across the border in New York. Fireman and Gural marveled that New Jersey voters hadn’t found it distasteful that “an out-of-country gaming company that sends New Jerseyans’ gaming dollars to Malaysia is funding opposition ads.”
The pair might enjoy throwing shade at Genting, but state Senator Stephen Sweeney was on record back in mid-August saying Fireman and Gural had no one but themselves to blame for their side’s lack of voter support. Sweeney, who’d supported the north Jersey plan, believed the pair had waited too long to roll out their campaign, allowing the opposition to control the narrative and turn voters against expansion.