The high-stakes effort to bring casinos to northern New Jersey was on life support Friday after the major group campaigning for the statewide referendum announced the suspension of its media push.
The referendum has been trailing badly in the polls and was opposed by a coalition of groups, including casino workers in Atlantic City and the local chamber of commerce. The proposed measure would give Atlantic City's current casino operators, including MGM Resorts International, Tropicana Entertainment, Caesars Entertainment and a few others, the first rights to participate in the North Jersey casino development.
The group known as "Our Turn NJ" — the campaign supporting the referendum — conceded the polling data wasn't encouraging for passage of the statewide referendum. The campaign said its chief backers — Jeff Gural, who is the owner of the Meadowlands Racetrack, and former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman — had "reluctantly" suspended the paid media component of the campaign. Fireman has proposed building a casino complex in Jersey City, while Gural has backed a plan to build a Meadowlands casino.
"It doesn't pay to keep spending money," said Gural in an interview Friday, explaining that the campaign's economic benefits messaging wasn't working due to the current political climate in the state. "I was prepared to guarantee $500 million and even that didn't move the needle. There was no message that we could try that could overcome this anti-Trenton message (used by the opposition)."
To date, "Our Turn NJ" has spent roughly $10 million — most of it for television advertising. According to Gural, the opposition has spent about twice that amount.
Even though the campaign has no plans for more television buys, Gural said he still is encouraging people to vote for the referendum because of the economic benefits it will bring for the state. Proponents of the northern New Jersey casino development claim it would create up to 43,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in recaptured revenue for the state.
"There are deep pockets on both sides of the issue and obviously they are the ones who are fueling a lot of the advertising," said Krista Jenkins, a political science professor and director of Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Survey. She said the New Jersey market is "a very expensive market" to advertise on TV since it requires the campaigns to tap into the Philadelphia and New York City markets.
She said opposition to the referendum has been "quite widespread across the state — at least from what we've seen. I wouldn't say it's North versus South."
A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Monday showed just 35 percent of people approve of the referendum on the November ballot to allow casinos in northern New Jersey. Another 58 percent disapproved of the measure and there were 7 percent unsure.
The statewide referendum would amend New Jersey's Constitution and allow casino development outside Atlantic City. Specifically, it would allow up to two casinos to be built in North Jersey and require each new license for a casino to spend at least $1 billion.
The Northeast region is currently undergoing a major gaming expansion with the development of at least eight new planned casinos — projects estimated to cost a combined $5.5 billion.
Atlantic City's gaming industry has been struggling over the years with the expansion of casinos into the nearby markets. Casino revenue in Atlantic City has fallen by more than 50 percent from the 2006 peak when a dozen casinos generated combined revenue of $5.2 billion. Last year, the city's eight remaining casinos produced combined gaming revenue totaling around $2.5 billion.
Opponents of the casino development in northern New Jersey have pointed to an economic study showing it could result in the loss of as many as 30,000 jobs to the Atlantic City region.
"Although 'Our Turn NJ' signaled they will suspend their media campaign, we will continue to fight any and all efforts to siphon dollars and jobs out of South Jersey," Deb DiLorenzo, chairwoman of the "No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, said in a statement. "Messrs. Gural and Fireman have underestimated the voters who understand that their claims are overblown and that no amount of tax dollars coming back to Atlantic City will offset the devastation two new casinos in North Jersey will cause South Jersey."
In June, Fitch Ratings warned that expansion of gaming outside Atlantic City could lead to as many as four additional casino closings.
MGM Resorts' Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa is the largest casino property operating in Atlantic City and produces monthly gross gaming revenue roughly double its nearest competitor, Harrah's Atlantic City. In the year-to-date period through August, Borgata's gross gaming revenue, or GGR, rose 4.4 percent while Atlantic City's overall revenue during the same stretch was up just 0.2 percent. That said, Borgata's monthly revenue during August fell 7.8 percent, lagging the city's overall decline of 6.7 percent.
MGM Resorts completed the purchase of Boyd Gaming's 50 percent stake in Borgata on Aug. 1, and then turned around and sold the real estate to a REIT known as MGM Growth Properties.
MGM had no comment for this story.
"In terms of the referendum, we've been on the sidelines on this," MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said during the casino company's earnings call on Aug. 4 in response to an analyst's question. "What our challenge is, though, we would certainly be the leading contender to win one of those potential billion-dollar resort opportunities in North New Jersey, given our presence in New Jersey already, our licensing there, and the dominance that Borgata has, we would be, no doubt, the lead horse."
Still, Murren said there were still too many unknowns, such as the tax rate of new casinos and other matters including the final legislation.
"We don't have enough facts right now," he said. "We are taking a look at it, though. And looking at how does that potential fit within the strategic goals of MGM Resorts going forward. We are going to have an unbelievable resort in the D.C. area with National Harbor. We've got our Mississippi Gulf Coast property."
MGM's $1.3 billion resort casino in National Harbor, Maryland, is expected to open in December. MGM also is developing an $800 million casino in Springfield, Massachusetts.
One recent standout in Atlantic City has been Tropicana, with the property posting a 6.3 percent rise in GGR during August following July's nearly 14 percent increase. Year-to-date, Tropicana's revenue is up 5.7 percent.
"Tropicana continues to grow in the difficult Atlantic City market because we recognize the importance of continuing to invest in our property," Tropicana Entertainment President Tony Rodio said in a statement to CNBC. "Over the past five years, Tropicana has invested over $150 million in capital to significantly upgrade both our gaming and non-gaming experience."
Another major player in Atlantic City is Caesars Entertainment, owner of three properties including Harrah's Resort. A subsidiary of Caesars, owner of two of those Atlantic City casinos, is currently operating under bankruptcy protection.Caesars is undergoing a $30 million room renovation project at its Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City.
"Caesars Entertainment is committed to Atlantic City," a Caesars Entertainment spokesperson told CNBC in a statement Friday. "We've demonstrated this commitment by investing in a state-of-the-art convention center, room renovations and other upgrades at our Atlantic City properties."
The polling shows that, while there are strong arguments to be made for the benefits of gaming expansion, “Respondents react very strongly to reasons to oppose the Amendment, which play to the lack of specifics and distrust directed at state government in Trenton. For comparison, the highest testing positive message is viewed as a very strong reason to support the measure by 48% of voters. The four negative messages tested in the survey all receive anywhere between 56% to 60% of voters who say that each one is a very strong reason to oppose the measure.” olling released earlier this week by Rutgers-Eagleton reinforces this voter dissatisfaction. In that poll, only 25 percent of those surveyed believe New Jersey is headed in the right direction, while 68 percent say the state has gone off on the wrong track
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.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) this morning announced plans to introduce a measure that will explicitly detail how state funding derived from casinos in the northern part of the state will be used, including aid to senior programs such as Senior Freeze, Meals on Wheels and PAAD (Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled), funding for public space and transportation improvements and support for Atlantic City recovery initiatives.
“Transparency and clarity is critical for residents and all parties involved in the North Jersey casino debate, especially, as we move closer to November elections,” said Caputo. “We have seen and heard many different opinions on this issue, both negative and positive. However, it is important that the Legislature’s intent for any funding coming out of a casino built in the north is spelled out clearly and as definitively as possible.
“Voters should be clear as to what they will be casting their vote on in November. They should know where we stand. With this resolution, our intent for the state portion of the funding from casinos in the northern part of the state will now be in writing and have an opportunity to be agreed upon by both houses.”
The Assembly Concurrent Resolution will express the Legislature’s intent in approving Senate Concurrent Resolution No 1 of 2016, which proposes to amend the state constitution to authorize casino gambling in the northern part of the state and is to be considered by the voters at the November 2016 election.
The concurrent resolution will provide details on the distribution of state funds derived from casino gambling in the northern part of the state, which will include the following:
(1) Provide funding to counties for public spaces and transportation and infrastructure and infrastructure improvements, with the funding allocations based on population and competitive criteria;
(2) Provide funding to benefit senior citizens in the state through property tax reductions and vulnerable populations through programs administered by the counties;
(3) Provide funding for the recovery of Atlantic City through programs for job placement for displaced workers form previously closed casino properties in Atlantic City;
(4) Continue promotional support for Atlantic City as a destination resort;
(5) For grants and loans to promote non-gaming development, attractions, and destination programming;
(6) For programs designed to aid and encourage the thoroughbred and standard bred industries;
(7) And for infrastructure and transportation improvements and airport enhancements.
The resolution also includes the intent of the Legislature to establish a tax rate considerably higher than the tax rate currently applied to revenues derived from casino gambling in Atlantic City, and to be tiered according to the amount of the investment made for each casino development.
Additionally, the measure will include various guidelines for choosing a location, selecting licensed operators, and the administration of programs to be funded from state revenues.
They clowned for the camera, but lawmakers remain deeply divided over the proposed constitutional amendment to authorize two new casinos in northern New Jersey, particularly over how much revenue it will actually generate for the state. Sponsor Ralph Caputo introduced a concurrent resolution that urges the Legislature to offer more specifics.
“The way this is going to be accomplished hopefully is by having enabling legislation that will dictate exactly what the tax rate’s going to be. We haven’t done that yet, and in terms of transparency I think it has to be discussed and hopefully we get something accomplished before November,” he said.
Caputo says the tax rates should be significantly higher than the effective 9.25 percent currently paid by Atlantic City casinos, and should be tiered, depending on how much each developer spends on a new casino.
“It should be at least 30 to 40 percent on the Meadowlands project that occurs, and 15 percent or somewhere around that for the Jersey City project,” he said.
If you average the lowest of Caputo’s lowest proposed tax rates, you get 22 percent. Apply that to a projected best-case $1 billion in revenue and it could generate $220 million in tax money — half of that dedicated to Atlantic City, most of the rest for benefiting New Jersey’s elderly and disabled — with 2 percent set aside for New Jersey’s racing industry. But critics see nothing concrete.
“Saying what he’d like to see them to be — as opposed to actually setting a tax rate so that the public knows what they’re voting on — would be very important. How do you put a ballot question to amend our constitution and say, ‘Why don’t you pass this and we’ll figure out what the tax rate’s going to be?'” asked Assemblyman Chris Brown.
Atlantic City’s gaming executives view two northern casinos as direct competition that could force more casinos to close in the beleaguered shore town, and a recent poll showed more than half of those surveyed oppose expanding casinos to North Jersey. With billions at stake, dueling ads present vastly different views.
Caputo’s resolution aims to clarify legislative intent and revive public interest. But it’s still not clear enough for some opponents.
“They’re talking about between $500 million and $1 billion in revenue coming into the state and we’re going to let the Legislature decide how they’re going to direct that money? Let’s have some secure outlined paradigm set in place so that we know — and the voter knows — what the money’s going to be used for. And let’s do something to protect the taxpayer,” said Assemblyman Robert Auth.
Caputo says enabling legislation with specific tax rates could offer voters some reassurance. But he acknowledges legislative debate over the TTF and pension funding has sucked all the oxygen out of the room.
If someone suggested building a $4.6 billion casino in New Jersey, that person may rightly attract a few quizzical looks, especially considering the declining condition of the state’s casino industry, as well as the fate of its $2.4 billion white elephant, Revel. When it’s explained that the planned location for the casino would be away from the saturated market of Atlantic City, and instead be in North Jersey, then the suggestion suddenly appears to make a lot more sense.
The ambitious proposal is the brainchild of Paul Fireman, a former CEO of Reebok International who has an estimated personal wealth of $1.03 billion. In order to realize his dream, New Jersey voters still have to approve a casino expansion in the state outside of Atlantic City, and last week, Fireman helped finance a campaign to drum up support for the proposal via an ad campaign entitled “Our Turn NJ”.
Paul Fireman already owns the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, and if he manages to get his way would then construct his new casino to the south of Liberty State Park. Amongst the features Fireman is planning in order to turn the resort into a star attraction is the world’s biggest Ferris Wheel, a 107,500-seated motorsports stadium, and a casino offering 6,000 slots and 500 table games.
One important supporter Fireman has aready got on his side is Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop , who commenting on the possible project, stated:
“You’ve got to think big. The opportunity to have a world-class facility on the waterfront is significant from a job-creation standpoint, for tax relief, and for tourism. Paul Fireman is capable of executing something like this.”
Mayor Steven Fulop also expressed his opinion that the Liberty Rising project had the potential to draw in a lot of customers from the New York market, and subsequently become the country’s highest-grossing casino. Others, however, are less convinced, such as Jonathan Miller from the appraisal firm, Miller Samuel. Specializing in the New York City metro area, Miller says the potential of the area is not immediately apparent, and as he explains:
“Not to criticize Jersey City, but it’s tough to create a luxury residential product outside of a hub like Manhattan. The trophy market isn’t simply about building something big and sticking it somewhere. I don’t understand this location, even if the views are spectacular. It’s align with things that don’t go together with high-end apartments, like motor cross.”
Eleven stories of steel are already in evidence at the Montreign Resort Casino construction site near Monticello, seen from this bird's-eye vantage courtesy of Chris Hummel's high-flying drone. Empire Resorts Executive Vice President Charlie Degliomini confirms work is proceeding on schedule toward a March 2018 opening, with 400+ workers currently on site. The intensity of the effort has required the closure of adjacent Joyland Road, the usual spot for the curious to drive past, so this is a view not easily seen otherwise. Hummel's more extensive aerial video (available at https://vimeo.com/180799451) shows the dual-laned entrance road now extends onto Joyland.
High-quality sharing and streaming videos in gorgeous HD quality can be found on Vimeo c0m. Go to the site and in the search box type MONTREIGN. Five video of the built from 5 months ago to present can be viewed.
Under current law, casino gambling is permitted only in Atlantic City in Atlantic County. This concurrent resolution proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to allow the Legislature to pass laws to permit the establishment and operation, under regulation and control by the State, of casinos in two other counties of this State. No more than two casinos would be permitted and only one casino in each of the two counties would be permitted. Also, each casino is to be located in a municipality that is at least 72 miles from Atlantic City.
The eligibility for each initial license to establish a new casino would be limited to persons whose majority equity owners: a) are holders of a New Jersey casino license that were operating a casino which was conducting gambling as of the date of passage by the Legislature of this concurrent resolution; or b) were principal owners of a holder of a New Jersey casino license that was operating a casino which was conducting gambling as of the date of passage, if that principal owner or subsidiary also holds a valid license to own and operate a casino in another jurisdiction with licensing standards similar to those in New Jersey. A principal owner would mean any person who, directly or indirectly, owns 50 percent or more of a holder of a New Jersey casino license that was operating a casino which was conducting gambling as of the date of passage.
If a person described above does not apply for a license within 180 days following the date on which the licensing entity indicates that applications are being accepted, or applies but fails to meet certain progress requirements that will be prescribed by law toward the establishment and operation of a gambling house or casino, any person may apply for that license in accordance with law.
An applicant for a license to establish a casino would be approved only if the applicant commits to and makes an investment of at least $1 billion in the acquisition, construction, and development of the facility in which the casino is located prior to the commencement of gambling operations.
The law would determine the location and type of such casinos and of the gambling games which may be conducted. The law would also determine the tax rate to be levied upon the gross gaming revenues derived from the gambling operations.
In the first State fiscal year in which State revenues are derived from the new casinos, those State revenues would be credited to a special account to be used for the same purposes as State revenues from Atlantic City casinos are currently applied.
In the second State fiscal year in which State revenues from the new casinos are derived and thereafter, the State revenues derived from the new casinos and from the Atlantic City casinos would be credited to a special New Jersey Investment Fund. Two percent of the amount so credited in each State fiscal year first would be dedicated as State aid, with each half of the two percent allocated to the locality in which each of the two gambling establishments are located and operating. Locality would mean the host municipality, county, or both.
Then, the proposed amendment would dedicate for each State fiscal year the remaining revenues in the investment fund for the purposes of the recovery, stabilization, or improvement of the city of Atlantic City, for the same purposes as the State revenues from Atlantic City casinos are currently applied, for State aid to each county and municipality in the State for programs and property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled residents, and for such other purposes as the Legislature shall by law provide. The proposed amendment specifies the percentages dedicated for those purposes for the first 15 State fiscal years.
Commencing in the 17th State fiscal year and for the next subsequent nine State fiscal years, the percentages dedicated for those purposes would change over the course of 10 State fiscal years, and then would remain at those levels for each State fiscal year thereafter.
Notwithstanding the dedications, the total amount dedicated in each state fiscal year for the purposes of the recovery, stabilization, or improvement of the city of Atlantic City would not exceed one third of the total credited to the investment fund in each State fiscal year.
Of the percentage of revenues dedicated from the investment fund for State aid to each county and municipality in the State for programs and property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled residents and for such other purposes as the Legislature shall by law provide, not less than two percentage points in each State fiscal year would be dedicated for programs designed to aid the thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen in this State
EAST RUTHERFORD - The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has voted to issue another $800 million in bonds in an effort to jump-start the long-dormant construction project for the American Dream mall and entertainment complex at the Meadowlands, bringing the total bonds approved this year to $1.15 billion.
KeaninYourCorner.pngThe NJSEA says the borrowing is worthwhile because bondholders, not taxpayers, are assuming all the risk. But a Kane In Your Corner analysis finds taxpayers could still wind up on the hook for this project in the future, and American Dream could ultimately result in a costly wake-up call.
For supporters of American Dream, the proposed shopping mall and indoor entertainment center is a no-brainer. "This place is so much more than a retail complex, this is a family destination where people from around the world are going to come year around,” Alex Torres of Hackensack told the NJSEA board prior to the bond vote.
“You're pouring more money down a rat hole,” says taxpayer advocate Jerry Cantrell, president of the Common Sense Institute of New Jersey. “Utilize that money for something the taxpayers can benefit from. Put that money into the transportation fund and fix some of these potholes.”
The bonds won’t cost taxpayers anything now, but Kane In Your Corner finds New Jersey residents could wind up paying later. Under the bond agreement approved by the state, half of the sales tax revenues collected at the mall would be earmarked to repay bondholders who invest in the project. Those Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOTs, mean the money won’t be available for the things sales taxes normally fund, like roads or schools.
Gordon MacInnes, president of the think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, says PILOTs have already taken their toll on New Jersey taxpayers. “We already can't afford to meet our current, past or future obligations as a state government,” MacInnes says. “We've dug ourselves a deep hole, by taking actions that are very similar to this one.”
The key to success for American Dream may ultimately be how well it attracts new revenue to the state. If the majority of its income is from shoppers who would not otherwise have spent money in New Jersey, then it won’t matter that a portion of the sales taxes are earmarked to pay bonds. However, if more than half of its income comes from customers who are lured from existing New Jersey malls or, worse, if the troubled project never reaches completion, there will be another shortfall for New Jersey taxpayers to cover.
MacInnes is not optimistic about American Dream’s prospects, calling it “ill-considered from the start.” He questions why the NJSEA “decided to go into business competing against the Bergen and Essex and Hudson county malls.”
That’s not all it would be competing against. In a 30-mile driving radius of American Dream’s location, Kane In Your Corner found 24 large shopping malls. That makes some wonder why the government keeps investing public resources into helping a stalled plan – now on its third developer – to build one more.
“This thing’s been resurrected so many times, it has more lives than your typical alley cat,” says Cantrell. “It doesn't make much sense.”
By Michael J. Doherty
Last fall, the Triple Five Group boasted that the nearly $5 billion construction cost of the long-delayed American Dream Meadowlands mall makes it "the most expensive retail project on earth."
The American Dream project is a retail and entertainment center that remains under construction at the Meadowlands Sports Complex located in East Rutherford.
Initially proposed in 2003, the project's first developer went bankrupt and the second was forced to surrender control after losing financing. After sitting idle for two years, a third developer, the Triple Five, was brought in to complete construction in 2011.
The developer now claims that the American Dream Meadowlands mall will be completed in 2017 — with one caveat: They'll need $1 billion in bonds to be sold by government entities to provide the remainder of the financing required to complete the project.
Triple Five, headquartered in Canada, is a multinational development and finance corporation with offices located across North America and around the world. It's perhaps best known for developing, owning, and managing the world's first and second largest tourism, retail and entertainment complexes; the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, and the Mall of America in Minnesota.
Triple Five's inability to secure this final financing without government assistance should be seen as a sign of the massive risk and excessive cost associated with the project. After all, who in their right mind would want to invest in a venture that is more than a decade behind schedule and has stalled twice due to nervous investors and ballooning costs?
The latest financing proposal seeks to have the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority sell $1 billion in government bonds to help finance the remaining construction.
Under normal circumstances, after the mall opens, Triple Five would pay the state a number of taxes, including sales taxes, generated by the American Dream Meadowlands. Under New Jersey's Economic Redevelopment Grant program, however, the state will take just a portion of that tax revenue and pass the rest onto the bond investors to pay back the bonds.
As a result, $1 billion in tax revenue collected at the American Dream Meadowlands mall will not be sent to Trenton to fund essential state programs, but will be diverted to the bond investors. This diversion of tax revenue will certainly leave a big hole in future state budgets.
In addition, the Triple Five Group will not pay traditional property taxes on the complex for decades, instead making payments in lieu of property taxes (PILOT) to East Rutherford — although much of that revenue will also be used to repay the bond investors.
Ultimately, East Rutherford residents will see little benefit from those PILOT payments, and their local schools will receive nothing under the agreement.
It should be noted that New Jersey taxpayers have already paid a reported $80 million in road and infrastructure improvements in support of the American Dream Meadowlands project. In addition, the new mall will be located on valuable state owned land within the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Haven't New Jersey taxpayers already provided enough resources for this private venture?
Shockingly, at the same time that Triple Five is asking for a $1 billion subsidy from New Jersey taxpayers, it is constructing a multi-billion dollar sister project in Florida – American Dream Miami – without requesting public financing for construction costs.
If Triple Five can afford to undertake the American Dream Miami venture before the Meadowlands project is completed, does it really need $1 billion of additional funding provided by Garden State taxpayers? Why should New Jersey taxpayers subsidize the construction of American Dream Meadowlands in East Rutherford when American Dream Miami will receive no such subsidy?
At a time when shopping malls across the nation are failing and major retailers are losing ground to online sales, New Jersey politicians shouldn't be so willing to give away the store to help the Triple Five Group complete its expensive white elephant in the Meadowlands.
Why are New Jersey taxpayers once again on the receiving end of such a bad deal?
Michael J. Doherty (R), an attorney, is a state senator representing the 23rd Legislative district.
ALBANY — A major New York union and the operator of a Queens casino are anteing up against a New Jersey referendum to allow gambling outside of Atlantic City and closer to New York City.
The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, which represents workers in New York and New Jersey, on Monday will begin running a television and digital ad campaign against the referendum.
The union opposes the referendum because the legislation that allowed for it does not include a labor peace provision that would stop casino owners from blocking union organizing efforts. New York's casino law included such a provision.
"Our union has built a strong standard for gaming workers in the tri-state area, and until we have concrete assurances that those standards will be met, we will oppose any efforts to expand gaming into North Jersey," said union President Peter Ward.
"The close to 5,000 hospitality workers we represent in North Jersey, cannot support their families on empty promises, and we will not support any measure that fails to guarantee these critical standards are met."
The ad will have an initial six-figure television buy that will likely balloon to seven-figures before the November referendum, sources say.
In a new ad, the union will challenging the referendum by blaming New Jersey pols for bailing out Donald Trump's failing casinos.
It begins with unflattering pictures of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a baseball uniform playing ball.
"Trenton political bosses are up to their old games," the ad says while stating how a law would allow for casinos in northern New Jersey "without giving communities the ability to say 'no.'"
The ad says the casino revenue would be able to be used however the politicians want, "just like they did when they bailed out Donald Trump's failing casinos."
"Another bait and switch from the insiders of Trenton. We've seen what they've done in Atlantic City: Crime bankruptcy. foreclosure. That's the Trenton game and Trenton can't be trusted."
It ends with a picture of Trump and Christie together.
Genting, a company that runs a casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, is also challenging the New Jersey referendum.
The union is not the only New York interest getting involved in the fight. Genting, which runs the successful casino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, has helped bankroll a group made up heavily of Atlantic City interests that are opposing the measure. The group, Trenton's Bad Bet, unveiled its own ad last week.
Genting's Queens casino stands to lose business if gambling is expanded across the border into northern New Jersey.
Genting opposes the expansion into North Jersey "because we believe it would hurt New Jersey families and businesses as well as put thousands of jobs at risk in New York and elsewhere," said company spokesman Michael Levoff.
"We undertake many different efforts on a host of issues that impact our industry as a whole, and our partnerships with state governments who rely on the jobs we create and the revenue we generate," Levoff added.
On the other side of the issue, Jeff Gural, a New York City developer who owns an upstate racetrack, is helping fund an ad campaign in favor of the gambling expansion. Gural also owns a racetrack in the Meadowlands and stands to benefit if the referendum is approved.
The Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City is pictured in April 2015. A referendum would allow gambling to expand to northern New Jersey.
Gural says the tax money New Jersey used to collect from casinos in Atlantic City has dropped by more than half, to $200 million. The ads he is helping fund argue expanding gambling by allowing two casinos outside of Atlantic City would mean more money for state programs for seniors and others.
He said it's not surprising the opposition to the referendum is being led by interests in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere who stand to be hurt by the competition.
He was surprised, however, that the Hotel and Motel Trades Council was among those fighting against the expansion, saying it makes no sense since the union represents workers in New Jersey who will be helped by a casino expansion.
"We would certainly hire more people in New Jersey than they would lose jobs," Gural said. "If we get our message out, we should win easily," he said.
Two recent polls have shown Garden State residents oppose the referendum while a third found voters evenly divided.
This reference was made in regards to the major campaign launched by opponents of the referendum who are spending a significant amount of money on their print, media, and direct mail campaign to dissuade voters from backing the referendum.
In a statement, Caputo said “There’s no doubt about it. Powerful and well-heeled political, corporate and labor interests outside New Jersey will spend whatever it takes to defeat the Referendum for North Jersey casinos in order to keep billions of dollars of our gaming revenue flowing out of New Jersey and into their pockets. They like things exactly the way they are, and will use innuendo and outlandish accusations to convince New Jersey taxpayers to vote against our own best interests because it benefits them, and that offends me.”
The referendum wants two new casinos to be developed in North Jersey in an effort to compete with the casino industry in the nearby states of Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, New England and Delaware. Caputo believes that New Jersey is losing out on a significant amount of gambling revenue as these nearby states are attracting New Jersey gamblers who find it more convenient to gamble at these out of state casinos than heading over to Atlantic City.
Atlantic City has already lost four out of its twelve casinos during the last couple of years and is expected to lose its fifth casino in October when the Trump Taj Mahal casino shuts down. The Assemblyman stated that state legislators and voters must consider the impact of convenience gambling and quickly adapt to ensure that the casino industry in New Jersey does not suffer anymore.
Caputo believes that it is time for New Jersey to take all its eggs out of one basket and expand gaming opportunities in the state in order to prevent gambling revenue from going to neighboring states. He believes that the two new casinos in North Jersey will generate additional revenue for the state government which can be used to fund education, infrastructure, senior benefits, transportation and property tax relief.
The Assemblyman also pointed out that while voters in New Jersey might wonder who is extensively funding the campaign to stop the referendum, they will not be able to obtain any information as these backers do not have to disclose their identity as their 501c4 tax status allows them to keep things private.
My goodness you left out the most important part ........." So far Christie has not campaigned for the expansion......""
Read the whole (AP) article posted below:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie says he plans to cast his ballot in favor of expanding casinos to northern New Jersey this November.
Christie made the comment during a statehouse news conference Tuesday. The Republican governor also said he would campaign for the ballot question if asked.
While battling with Democratic leaders in the Legislature earlier this year, Christie had threatened to pull his support for casino expansion if his preferred plan for bailing out Atlantic City did not pass.
Competing campaigns in favor and against expanding casino gambling to two locations in northern Jersey have recently been announced.
So far Christie has not campaigned for the expansion.
If you where familiar with the China City project then you would know It has nothing to do with the coming casino, henceforth the Northern Jersey vote is irrelevant. Also it is only boring to you because it doesn't fit your narrative of cyber-bullying and compensating for your own self inadequacies.
New Jersey Casino Expansion Poll:
Poll Support Oppose Undecided Margin of Error Sample Size
2/18/2016 - 2/23/2016 44.0% 49.0% 7.0% +/-3.9 801
5/23/2016 - 5/27/2016 48.0% 48.0% 4.0% +/-3.7 806
Fairleigh Dickinson University
6/22/2016 - 6/26/2016 42.0% 50.0% 8.0% +/-3.8 712
AVERAGES 44.67% 49% 6.33% +/-3.8 773
The growing number of New Jersey residents opposing the construction of casinos in the northern part of the state has been troubling State Sen. Stephen Sweeney lately.
North Jersey casino proponent frowns at passive supportersAfter winning a bruising political battle this year for a November 8 ballot referendum, North Jersey.com reported that Sweeney is “disappointed” at North Jersey casinos supporters for sitting idly on the sidelines as they watch their numbers fade even before the voting day arrives.
A poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind in June found that 58% are opposed to allowing casinos in the northern part of the state. A Monmouth University poll in June showed equal levels of support and opposition to the ballot question
“I think they sat back way too long,” Sweeney told The Record’s Editorial Board of the effort to persuade the public to approve the statewide ballot question, which the news agency quoted. “I’m really disappointed that people haven’t stepped up sooner. I always tell people, when you’re running a tough election [campaign], you don’t win it in September. You win it in February. You have to build up positive energy.”
With less than four months to go before the electorate troop to the polling stations, businessmen like Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural and Paul Fireman, the former Reebok chief executive who seeks a multi-billion dollar casino and spa project in Jersey City, had started their “Our Turn NJ” campaign with hopes that it will get more attention that it needed.
But Sweeney is not convinced that the pro-North Jersey casino supporters are doing enough to persuade the people to vote for the referendum
“I don’t know how aggressive they are going to be, but if they are wise they will invest heavily,” Sweeney said of the supporters of the casino measure, which would permit casino bids of $1 billion or more in a region from New Brunswick north to the state line.
Asked if he is optimistic about the success of the casino measure, Sweeney said, “Looking at polls? No. Hoping? Yes.”
In an earlier interview with the Wall Street Journal, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo pointed out that the New Jersey residents are distracted by other issues that is closer to their concerns – such as a pending proposal to raise the state gas tax to fund transportation projects.
“I’m very disappointed that it’s not getting the attention that it should,” said Mr. Caputo, a Democrat from Essex County who supports expansion.
Meanwhile, groups supporting and opposing the expanded gambling in the state outside Atlantic City recently launched ad campaigns.
The Press of Atlantic City reported that the Gural-Fireman tandem released a television and radio ads that focuses on senior citizens, who will be the beneficiaries of the collected tax revenues from these new casinos.
“New York and Pennsylvania have stolen billions of our gaming revenue, robbing us of dollars to fund programs like Meals-on-Wheels and the property tax freeze,” a woman says in the ad, which was quoted by the news website. “Vote yes and support gaming expansion in Northern New Jersey to protect our seniors.”
Anti-North Jersey casino group Trenton’s Bad Bet targets to launch its own advertisement on August 15.