[toc]New Jersey voters will be asked to make a couple of extremely important decisions this November.
The first will be assigning the state’s 14 electoral votes for the 45th president. The second is whether they should authorize casino gambling outside the borders of Atlantic City.
The North Jersey casino referendum was a hot button issue earlier this year when the polls showed a virtual tie, but the chance of the ballot referendum passing appears to be slipping away faster than Donald Trump’s chances of an electoral college victory.
Recent polls have shown opposition to casino expansion going from a double digit win to a landslide victory.
Both sides sunk a considerable amount of money into making their cases on this issue, setting a record for New Jersey ballot referendums in the process).
But the opposition seems to have won the day, as the chief group supporting casino expansion pulled most of its media advertising last month.
There’s always next year 2018
North Jersey casino expansion isn’t a new issue, and pass or fail, 2016 is unlikely to be the last time the idea is brought up.
Even though North Jersey casino expansion is on life support, there are no fewer than three serious proposals on the table. It will likely continue to be a contentious issue next year and beyond.
Should New Jersey residents vote down the referendum, a similar yet revamped ballot question is almost a certainty for 2018.
The newest North New Jersey casino proposal
As was first reported by Meadowlands Matters’ John Brennan, Berger Group CEO Miles Berger has indicated the company has a deal in place with an existing New Jersey casino to build a casino in Newark.
It’s the most densely populated casino site proposed thus far – Jersey City and the Meadowlands being the others.
However, Berger, seeing the writing on the wall, seems to be taking a long-term approach, as he indicated his company would be willing to wait until 2018.
“I know there has been a big advertising campaign against the referendum and that the polling is not good, but even if we had to wait another two years, that would not be a deterrent,” Berger was quoted as saying.
Berger’s vision is an easily accessible casino, right in the heart of a major metropolitan area.
Located on Broad Street in Newark, the casino would be near Newark Penn Station, the Broad Street light rail system, and major highways, making the casino appealing to New York City residents and beyond.
Brennan notes that the site is “near the Newark Bears’ old baseball stadium and five or six blocks away from the Prudential Center.”
However, one of the issues with projects of this sort is traffic and infrastructure. These two concerns could lead to lawmakers favoring other proposals.
Billionaire Paul Fireman has his sights set on Jersey City, as the former head of Reebok has proposed the Liberty Rising resort spa and casino just south of Liberty State Park, and not too far from Fireman’s Liberty National Golf Course.
Fireman’s casino is nothing short of ambitious.
The $3 billion hotel and casino project would include two towers (no word if they’ll be called Orthanc and Barad-dûr), restaurants, and a spa. According to a presentation given by Fireman earlier this year, the casino would boast 6,000 slots and 500 table games.
Fireman said the project would result in 9,000 construction jobs, 6,000 casino jobs, and would benefit Jersey City to the tune of $65 million per year.
The most talked-about casino project is the long-proposed addition of a casino to the historic Meadowlands Racetrack.
The project is a joint venture between Hard Rock Casinos and Meadowlands Racetrack. Back in 2015, the proposed facility was slated to include “5,000 slot machines, 200 gaming tables, 10 restaurants, a Hard Rock Live showroom, a New Jersey Music Hall of Fame and a music memorabilia museum.”
The project was estimated to cost $1 billion, but considering the other proposals that have been coming, this number may need to go up.
Other NJ casino projects likely
The current bill would give right of first refusal to existing land-based casinos in Atlantic City, and require a minimum investment, so there’s really no telling what other bidders could appear.
With the referendum having little chance of passing this year, we probably haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to North Jersey casino proposals. If a bill is eventually passed, I’d expect a number of companies to swoop in with multi-billion proposals.