Now that the dust has settled from the election, fans of Atlantic City casinos are breathing a sigh of relief after New Jersey voters soundly shot down the North Jersey referendum that would have spelled disaster for the gambling mecca. New Jersey voters nixed the casino expansion plan in North Jersey with a crushing 79 percent majority. A vote in favor would have allowed casinos outside of Atlantic City for the first time in New Jersey’s 38 year history of legalized gambling.
With the casino expansion plan officially put to bed, developers and investors are now looking at opportunities in Atlantic City as a more favorable and safer bet. Chris Paladino, who heads the Atlantic City Development Corp., said “I think it’s a pretty fair assumption the North Jersey casino ballot question probably had a chilling effect on investors, and they waited.” The Atlantic City Development Corp. is currently building a Stockton University campus and South Jersey Gas headquarters in Atlantic City.
Paladino also pointed out the uncertainty of a state takeover of Atlantic City should be resolved with the election results. Governor Chris Christie had been adamant that a state takeover of Atlantic City was necessary to forestall bankruptcy. According to Christie, Atlantic City is highly dependent upon the casino industry for its lifeblood. The overriding problem is that Atlantic City casinos are staffed by unionized public sector employees. Unions are strong in New Jersey. In order to have any chance of getting Atlantic City in the black again, unions will have to give. Christie knows that will not happen, so his takeover plan would strip the unionized employees of their collective bargaining rights, thereby giving the state free reign to develop a feasible plan.
Echoing Christie’s opinion that the unions are largely to blame for the Atlantic City casinos industry decline, Carl Icahn, who purchased the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in February 2016, withheld a $100 million investment plan for the casino. He has since closed the casino in October over a protracted union labor strike.
But with the prospect of new investment funds flowing into Atlantic City redevelopment plans, a state takeover should be mute.
Drexel University instructor of hospitality and gaming, Robert Ambrose, said that, “Those thinking seriously about playing Monopoly for real should move forward. The city is an investors’ market right now, and those with vision and funding should be looking at the landscape.”
The executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, Rummy Pandit, stated that the large margin of victory for defeat of the casino expansion referendum — three of four voters rejected it — will discourage proponents for a long time to come.