Many believe that gaming in North Jersey will cannibalize Atlantic City. I disagree, and in fact, strongly believe that gaming in North Jersey will be critical to reposition the region's economy by recapturing the billions in gaming revenue that currently goes to other states. With two sites in North Jersey, we can stop the stream of buses that are traveling to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which once traveled south to Atlantic City.
In addition to recapturing lost revenues from bordering states, two North Jersey gaming sites, developed and marketed to the right clientele, will capture new revenue from the 55 million annual visitors to New York City from across the globe. Two gaming sites in North Jersey have the potential to generate hundreds of millions in state and local tax revenue and create tens of thousands of desperately needed, good paying jobs.
In order for North Jersey gaming sites to become a reality and exist in tandem with Atlantic City, there are certain steps that must be taken to provide resources to the region and its residents. As I see it, legislatively mandated funding from the North Jersey sites of approximately $100 million per year would help reposition Atlantic City as a full resort — a tourist destination with gaming. We are currently taking steps to aid Atlantic City in this very trying time, but Atlantic City needs more funding that can be generated from the expansion of gaming in the north. The North Jersey gaming sites must also provide opportunity to Atlantic City employees that have been laid off, and would like to relocate to North Jersey. It will provide a light at the end of the tunnel for Atlantic City and a future for its residents.
New Jersey casino gaming is under fire from its neighboring states, so we need to stand up and fight back now. This is Business 101, do not let your competition beat you down. Since 2006, Atlantic City’s Gross Gaming Revenue has been in a downward spiral from a high of $5.2 billion dollars to approximately $2.8 billion today. That is an approximately 50 percent decline in revenue that significantly impacts the Casino Revenue Fund, which finances programs critical for seniors and the disabled including Meals on Wheels, Senior Property Tax Freeze for Seniors and Pharmaceutical Assistance for Aged and Disabled. The decline in revenue has either been supplemented from the state’s strained General Fund or vital services to seniors or the disabled have been cut. In this time period, the monopoly that New Jersey enjoyed with Nevada has ended with numerous casinos opening in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. And more are on the way.
Atlantic City has realized a loss of billions of its annual gaming revenue to these states and it is not coming back if we do not act NOW! New Jersey was once an industry leader with Nevada, but now we are third in gaming behind Pennsylvania and soon to be fourth when New York awards numerous casino licenses later this month. Our only option to take back this critical revenue for our great state and save Atlantic City is the expansion of gaming to North Jersey. You will hear people argue that expansion of gaming in North Jersey will kill Atlantic City, but I am here to tell you it is what will save Atlantic City. This is a state issue, not a North Jersey vs. South Jersey issue. We need to unite to save the whole state!
Let me be clear, waiting any longer to allow gaming outside of Atlantic City will further depress the gaming industry in New Jersey and produce additional gaming sites directly across our borders in New York and Pennsylvania, which will make it hard or impossible to secure financing and begin to develop in North Jersey. Once this happens, gaming in North Jersey may not be able to help Atlantic City and we will have lost a significant opportunity to grow the state’s economy and put our people to work.
Make no mistake, this chance to save Atlantic City, generate hundreds of millions in state and local tax revenue and create tens of thousands of good paying jobs will only be realized if we act NOW!
This Industry Insights blog was written by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union).