A nonprofit campaign favoring the expansion of casino gaming to North Jersey has thrown up the white flag.
Our Turn NJ announced Thursday it was suspending its paid media campaign, citing poor polling data among the factors.
“The current political climate in New Jersey and voters’ concerns about the lack of details relating to the effort have proved overwhelming,” Paul Fireman and Jeff Gural, supporters of expanding casino gaming beyond Atlantic City, said in a statement.
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Voters will decide whether to approve as many as two casinos in North Jersey during the Nov. 8 election. The ballot question states the new casinos must be in separate counties and at least 72 miles from Atlantic City, where four casinos closed in 2014 and another, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, is set to close Oct. 10. Deutsche Bank said last year that North Jersey casinos could generate $500 million in gambling revenue.
Gural, the Meadowlands Racetrack operator, and Fireman, a former Reebok chief executive, have both expressed interest in wanting to build casinos in the northern portion of the state.
“Although Our Turn NJ signaled they will suspend their media campaign, we will continue to fight any and all efforts to siphon dollars and jobs out of South Jersey,” said Debra P. DiLorenzo, chairwoman of the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition.
Opponents and even some supporters of the referendum said there weren’t enough details, such as exact locations and tax rates.
“This is good news for Atlantic City,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who was Atlantic City’s mayor from 1990 to 2001. “I think that a lack of specifics related to the plan became an issue to some.”
A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll found only 40 percent of voters supported expanding casino gaming in the state.
“I am glad after two years of fighting we’ve proven it was pure folly for anyone to claim North Jersey casinos were inevitable and that building them in an oversaturated market while cannibalizing Atlantic City would somehow help the state of New Jersey let alone the families of Atlantic County, and shows the question should have never gotten on the ballot in the first place,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic.
While Our Turn NJ has suspended its campaign, Meadowlands Regional Chamber officials said they will continue to fight for casinos in the northern part of the state.
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“Today we are calling on the other interested parties to come into the debate with their own messages,” said Jim Kirkos, Meadowlands Regional Chamber president and CEO. “Labor, education, local finance, senior advocates, racing interests and even those Atlantic City casino operators who desire to be a part of North Jersey gaming have seven weeks left to mobilize their constituencies with a conversation from the heart about the real merits to New Jersey.”
Trenton’s Bad Bet, a Newark-based group opposed to the referendum, has vowed to continue the fight.
“Trenton’s Bad Bet will not be distracted by billionaire developers throwing temper tantrums because they don’t get what they want,” said Bill Cortese, executive director of the group. “The casino expansion referendum otherwise known as Question One will hurt New Jersey families, costing the state tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic losses.”