[toc]On Election Day, New Jersey voters lined up at the polls and over two million voices spoke clearly.
A staggering 78 percent of voters said no to a referendum that would allow for casino gambling permits in two additional counties within the state. Failing by more than 1.5 million votes, the ballot question was defeated by the largest margin for any referendum in New Jersey’s history.
A win for Atlantic City?
The referendum, if passed, would have allowed two casinos to be constructed at least 72 miles north of Atlantic City. Proponents of the expansion into North Jersey suggested it would result in millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of new jobs to the people of New Jersey.
Opposition, however, argued that the amendment to the state’s constitution would prevent Atlantic City from returning to its former glory.
Early polls suggested an even split on the issue, but one of the main lobbying groups supporting the referendum, Our Turn NJ, ceased advertising a month before the election due to polls indicating the chances of success to be bleak.
It came as a shock to many that the referendum failed by such an enormous margin, but no one was surprised by its defeat. A record $20 million was spent on campaign ads, predominantly by those in opposition.
NJ casino expansion proponents unshaken by results
The group supporting the plan, Our Turn NJ, funded by Reebok CEO Paul Fireman and developer Jeff Gural, said in a statement after the election that they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the results.
“We do not view the failure to pass Question No. 1 as a rejection of gaming expansion but as a rejection of our state’s current political climate and a failure to have all the facts presented to them,” said Fireman and Gural, who wanted to construct respective casinos in Jersey City and the Meadowlands Racetrack.
They also said that the vague nature of the ballot question itself was partly responsible for its failure. Such important issues as how much the new casinos would pay in taxes and the exact locations of the casinos were not present.
Meanwhile, land-based AC casinos continue to struggle
When casinos were legalized in 1976, Atlantic City became the East Coast’s premier gambling destination.
In recent years, however, the city has suffered an economic downturn. Several prominent casinos, including the Trump Taj Mahal just last month, have shut their doors in the face of more and more gamblers heading to an ever-growing population of gambling halls in neighboring states.
It was the hope of this initiative’s proponents that by opening casinos in North Jersey, they would be able to direct gambling traffic back into the state. For the time being, Atlantic City is to remain the only location in New Jersey where casinos are allowed.
Failed amendments to the New Jersey constitution are banned from ballots for a period of two years, but it is unlikely that this issue will disappear entirely. Some proponents say they expect a similar proposal in the near future.
“We are glad to see the overwhelming support across New Jersey opposing casino expansion,” Trenton’s Bad Bet Executive Director Bill Cortese said in a press release.
“Today’s vote is an important step for Atlantic City’s return to becoming a world class resort destination. We are gratified by the overwhelming defeat of this initiative.”