The first question on the ballot next week will ask voters to consider altering the state constitution to allow expanded casino gaming in North Jersey. What the ballot language does not tell voters is that the gaming expansion referendum is a special interest giveaway that will allow billionaire developers who have funneled thousands of dollars to Trenton politicians to get even richer. All the while, New Jersey residents assume all the risk, which, according to economic studies, means nearly 30,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in economic pain.
In addition, the referendum to expand casino gaming was proposed with few details that might inform or educate a voter. Instead of studying the issue before seeking to expand gaming in New Jersey, legislators failed to even conduct an economic assessment, and the ballot language does not specify what the casino tax rate will be, what revenue will created and how specifically it will be distributed, or where the casinos will be located.
With no tangible details provided and voters expressing immense dissatisfaction with Trenton, which has broken promise after promise, politicians have tried to distract voters by making grand promises about aid to “children and seniors,” with no way to actually back up their claims.
Proponents of casinos in North Jersey would have you believe that an “unfettered open market” will draw more dollars into the state. Unfortunately, their promises and those made in Trenton have no credibility. These same politicians broke their word to cut rising property taxes, turned their back on students and school districts concerning education funding, bankrupted the Transportation Trust Fund causing infrastructure to come to a standstill over the summer, and failed to deliver on their promises to state workers by protecting their pensions.
But now, all of a sudden, New Jersey voters are just supposed to trust them. The fact is that Atlantic City is struggling, and there is a long road to recovery ahead. But one thing is certain: Adding new casinos just two hours away in an already-saturated gaming market will only make matters worse. The impact would not stop at casinos, but extend to all of the business owners in South Jersey that depend on casino traffic for commerce.
Business owners and taxpayers in New Jersey are tired of picking up the tab for Trenton’s bad bets. Don't let special interest and political donors seeking payback from Trenton politicians hurt New Jersey residents once more. On Nov. 8, vote “No” on Question One.
Bill Cortese is the executive director of Trenton's Bad Bet — the coalition comprised of community leaders, unions, small businesses and residents committed to defeating the casino expansion ballot question known as Question One. Cortese is a Marine Corps veteran and resides in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark.