NJ Gaming: Moving the dinosaurs up north

North Jersey gambling fever is growing with Bergen, Hudson and Essex Counties eager to get in the game. Both Gov. Christie and Senate President Sweeney are now open to supporting a ballot issue in this year’s or next year’s general election. But does it make sense?

Promises…promises. Feverish adherents are coyly suggesting that it would bring many new jobs, lots of tax revenue, allocate plenty of financial support to Atlantic City, and draw players from across the Hudson. Maybe, but these are just aspirational goals that might never materialize. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), are proposing resolution ACR300 that would allow a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to add up to three casinos in the north. It is not yet available for reading and may not mention the “devil in the details.”

What we do know is that the gaming market in our area is already saturated and declining. In this zero sum game a huge loser would be the already struggling Atlantic City which depends on northern and central Jersey for clients.

Ton-loads of money would be spent on promoting/lobbying gambling in the north, particularly by wealthy would-be owners of such properties, but there would be much less money to spend to oppose the measure. You might think that AC casinos would fight back, but most are owned by much larger conglomerates that might want a piece of the action up north. Certainly the city of AC has no money to oppose it.

One can hardly wait until developers demand grants, loans, tax incentives, etc. Why should our government invest in this game when tax revenues for casinos, internet gambling and the lottery are so disappointing? How about more worthwhile investments in our roads, environment and education?

Assemblyman Caputo said, “If you don’t adapt, you become extinct and you become a dinosaur.” Of course, with casinos already becoming dinosaurs, moving them up north is no solution.  

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