After Epic Referendum Fail, Meadowlands Biding Time For New Casino In New Jersey

Jessica Welman Updated on June 2, 2017
Meadowlands NJ casino
The push for the Meadowlands Racetrack to get a casino is not over. However, those behind the push are willing to put the brakes on the issue until a better opportunity arises.

Meadowlands owner thinks casino is six years away

During last week’s East Coast Gaming Congress at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, current Meadowlands Racetrack owner Jeff Gural spoke on the idea of New Jersey casino expansion outside of Atlantic City.

In the past, Gural passionately lobbied for casino expansion to no avail. Lately, Hard Rock Casino recently pushed to get a casino at the Meadowlands. Last year, there was a voter referendum on the issue. New Jersey residents struck down the idea, which means it will be at least two years before the plan can get back on the ballot.

Turns out Gural is willing to wait even longer than that. The past referendum lost by record numbers. Rather than just try, try again, Gural is going to be more deliberate next time around.

Guran elaborated:

“I’m never going to support another referendum that I’m not confident is going to win, because I think if it loses again, it will be virtually impossible to come back a third time and win. I’d rather wait until New York is opening their new casinos in probably the outer [New York City] boroughs or Westchester [County], at which point I think [New Jersey] voters will say, ‘Wait a second…”

New York is still in the process of launching upstate casinos like del Lago and the forthcoming Resorts World Catskills. With that in mind, it will be a while before Gov. Andrew Cuomo will consider more casinos. Cuomo’s office previously stated he would be overly cautious in green lighting any casino expansion, online or brick and mortar, until he is certain it will not cannibalize the business of these new properties.

Knowing that timeline, Gural thinks it will take six years or so for his scenario to come to fruition.

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Other lessons from the failed North Jersey casino referendum

Bad timing is only one reason behind why the state reacted so negatively to casinos in North Jersey. Assemblymembers Vince Mazzeo and Ralph Caputo were also on the conference panel. Both offered insight as to why the measure failed so hard last fall.

Caputo pointed to a lack of transparency on tax rates as an issue. He also noted giving preference to existing Atlantic City casino license holders.

It did not help that opponents of the referendum ran a campaign tied to political distrust. With preference to Atlantic City casinos, it could have come across as political backscratching and favoritism.

Caputo focused on solutions. Mazzeo was a little more pessimistic in his assessment of the situation.

“The way it was defeated, I don’t see it being passed the second time. I don’t know how you come back from those numbers. Eighty to 20 percent is a pretty significant amount,” he explained.

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