I received the following email from Jeff Gural on Tuesday morning. I do not personally know Mr. Gural, but he obviously knows who I am and particularly knows my reaction to casinos in North Jersey. Here's what he wrote me:
“My name is Jeffrey Gural, and I am the managing partner of the entity that has redeveloped the Meadowlands Racetrack. I thought I would reach out to you in the hopes of trying to convince you that while my goal is to get a casino at the Meadowlands, my intention is to try to work with the people in Atlantic City to try to revitalize the region. My earliest memory of Atlantic City is spending vacations with my grandparents who took me to one of the hotels, either at Christmastime or — better yet — over the summer. It was a lot of fun, and I always looked forward to going. Not being a gambler, I have only visited a handful of times once the casino industry came and, to be honest, it was always shocking to see how run-down the town has become.
“I know how passionate you are, but in fairness the only reason that Atlantic City is in such difficulty is that the casino owners who had an 8 percent tax rate elected to take all the money and not reinvest anything back into the town. I own two small racinos in Upstate New York, where my tax rate is 60 percent, so an 8 percent tax rate — when there was no other competition — had to be the equivalent of being able to print money. My involvement in the Meadowlands is purely as a result of my love for harness racing. I have no interest in building a destination resort-type casino that would compete with Atlantic City. I am only interested in trying to recapture the business that now goes to Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), Aqueduct and Yonkers (New York) and bring that revenue back into New Jersey.
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“Despite advice from my partners, I have offered to pay the Pennsylvania tax rate, which is 55 percent on slots, as opposed to 9.25 percent, which gives the casinos in Atlantic City a huge benefit as they can clearly offer far more comps than I can. My guess is we could generate about $400 million to $500 million per year in tax revenue, which is more than double what all of the casinos in Atlantic City currently pay, and a portion of that money could be used to help the town rebuild itself to make it more appealing to the type of customers that we needed. Some of that money could also be used to subsidize airfare so that you could attract visitors from the Bible Belt which, judging by the number of flights in Atlanta to Las Vegas, is a substantial number.
“Is it fair that Caesars, who owns four casinos, was able to open a casino far closer to Atlantic City than the Meadowlands, in Chester, Pa., which I am sure has had a much bigger impact than any casino at the Meadowlands? In addition, Caesars was bidding on a casino in Orange County, so for them to claim that a casino at the Meadowlands would hurt them is certainly hypocritical.
“For Atlantic City to grow, it needs a new source of revenue, and, as I see it, we would be that source of revenue, and without that I do not know how the city can recover. If we were fortunate to get a casino, we would be more than willing to offer jobs to anyone who was laid off from any of the casinos that closed and we would pay their relocation expenses.
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“You should be aware that horse racing in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland is subsidized by the state by utilizing slot revenue for purses. As you know, in New Jersey the state does not subsidize purses and, as a result, the Meadowlands and Monmouth are at a major disadvantage and our industry has been devastated. My guess is two-thirds of the jobs have been lost as a result of the decision to take the $30 million that was formally going for purses and refocusing it on helping Atlantic City recover.
“I do not object to that decision, as clearly it is in the best interests of the taxpayers that Atlantic City does thrive, but the horseracing jobs are just as important and the $400 million-$500 million we would pay to the state can hopefully be used to not only help Atlantic City recover but help our senior citizens who share the tax revenue from Atlantic City, as I have seen those revenues decline dramatically.
“My goal would be to try to find a solution that works for both your interests as a supporter of Atlantic City and at the same time is fair to the taxpayers and brings all the revenue that currently is leaving northern New Jersey back to where it belongs.”
Jeffrey Gural, Chairman
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I have been aware of your desire to have a casino at the Meadowlands racetrack. And, from your email, you know of my stance on this issue.
For too many years, revenues from the casinos were used throughout North Jersey and in other parts of the state. Former governors and politicos were able to get revenue for their favorite project. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars were used for a variety of projects such as baseball stadiums, a college dormitory, a baseball player’s museum and many other such items throughout the state.
With the racetrack’s purses of $30 million, most left the state in the hands of the horse’s owners from surrounding states. Gov. Chris Christie rightfully directed those funds be used for the marketing and enhancement of Atlantic City. Your statements about our casinos’ failure to aid and assist in the redevelopment of Atlantic City in its early years were true. However, today’s casino executives are playing more of a role aiding and assisting in events that bring more people to Atlantic City.
At first there was talk of one casino in North Jersey, and the majority of the conversation was about putting it in the Meadowlands complex. However, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, in a public statement Monday, said there would be two casinos in a referendum he anticipates will be held in November.
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I believe you are aware of the fact that a recent poll showed that revenue from casinos in Atlantic City would drop by 40 percent if we were to have a casino, let alone two, in North Jersey. We cannot allow that to happen, and this writer, in addition to many others in our area and throughout the state, will diligently work to defeat any North Jersey casino referendum.
Pinky’s Corner appears every Thursday in The Press. The Pinky’s Corner radio show airs 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on WOND 1400-AM. Email Pinky at pinkyscrnr@ aol.com.