There’s been talk about casino expansion in the Garden State for months. Many people outside Atlantic City but within New Jersey’s borders really want to pave the way for casino expansion elsewhere in New Jersey, primarily in the north. Right now, the only place where casinos may exist in New Jersey is Atlantic City.
While proponents of casino expansion have looked forward to casino gaming elsewhere in the state, that would require a constitutional amendment. And that would require a ballot question this November.
It looks like there won’t be a ballot referendum in New Jersey after all. The Senate President has stated that there isn’t enough time to discuss the matter in depth and vote within the legislature whether to put the motion on the ballot.
This has given Atlantic City reason to celebrate. Many in Atlantic City believe that casino expansion elsewhere in the state would devastate the seaside resort town even further.
In 2014, Atlantic City entered its darkest days with the closing of four casinos, including the brand new Revel Casino, which originally opened in 2012. Over 6,000 jobs were lost in 2014, devastating an already depressing economy. But the industry has bounced back a bit, with some casinos returning a profit in 2014. Many believed a market correction was due because of oversaturation.
While a casino expansion question won’t make its way onto the ballot this November, it could make its way onto the ballot next year. And that has created a North vs. South war in New Jersey, politically speaking.
North Jersey politicians want to permit as many as three casinos in the northern counties. Hard Rock International is already on board to build a massive casino gaming complex, even though the law doesn’t yet permit it to do so.
If a property like Hard Rock opens up, it could cause Atlantic City to worry even more. That said, it looks like they’re already planning ahead for the inevitable.
As Atlantic City faces increased competition in neighboring states, casinos are doing a lot to separate themselves from the competition and keep themselves relevant. Several properties have already undergone a huge transformation, including Tropicana, which just unveiled a $50 million transformation, including a revitalized boardwalk experience complete with a nightly LED light show right on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk.
Resorts Casino Hotel has already pumped tens of millions of dollars into revitalizing its property with hotel amenities, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and Landshark Bar & Grill. The property is also investing money in a new multi-faceted event space.
We’ll likely see even more renovation and revitalization projects get underway soon, and the extra year of non-expansion afforded by the lack of a ballot question will give the properties more time to reinvent themselves.
No matter what happens, one thing is for sure. At least the money spent on gambling will stay in New Jersey. In our minds, that’s better for the state than having it flow to Connecticut, New York, or Massachusetts.