Call for Meadowlands Casino Grows as Atlantic City Revenue Continues Decline

Atlantic City’s steady decline in casino revenue is leading to a growing chorus of lawmakers calling for a form of casino gambling in the Meadowlands or in other northern New Jersey sites. Southern New Jersey lawmakers want to protect Atlantic City, but many are starting to say the struggling resort can’t be helped one way or the other.

Northern New Jersey lawmakers have been calling for an expansion of casino gaming outside of Atlantic City for several years. But with the southern New Jersey gambling resort continuing to falter—even with the addition of online gambling—the calls are gaining some momentum again.

“Forget all this online slots, online lottery and all that. Let’s just put slot machines in at the Meadowlands and get it over with,” state Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, a major supporter of Atlantic City in the past, told the Bergen Record. “We need to stop trying to put Band-Aids on a gunshot wound to the head. Let’s accept the fact that Atlantic City’s problem is ‘location, location, location’ and move on from that.”

Lawmakers point to estimates that a casino at the Meadowlands Sports Complex casino, located so close to New York, would produce at least $350 million annually in taxes.

Meanwhile Atlantic City casinos posted January revenues that were down $9.5 million from January 2013, despite the advent of online gambling late last year that added about $10 million in revenues for the month.

Governor Chris Christie has given Atlantic City about five years to turn itself around. The state created a tourism district in the city, revised casino regulations and then approved online gambling.

However, three years into the plan, Atlantic City’s revenues are still falling and even Christie’s patience seems to be faltering.

“It’s obviously a critical year, because we need to begin to see progress in Atlantic City or we’re going to start considering alternatives,” Christie said in December. “It’s a year when we have to show some significant results.”

A state Assembly gaming committee approved a resolution in December to create a commission to study the idea of expanding gambling to Bergen County, but the bill has yet to be approved.

Still, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, recently blasted the Atlantic City casino industry at a hearing on the proposed bill in what is some of the sharpest rhetoric yet on the issue. 

“They had a monopoly for 30-something years, and you know what: They took real advantage of it, didn’t they?” Caputo said. “They didn’t care about the people in that town. They didn’t care about their employees. They didn’t care about the state of New Jersey, OK? They didn’t give a damn about anybody but themselves.

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say Atlantic City is going to be fine,” Caputo said. “Atlantic City is not going to be fine, as it formerly existed. It’s not going to come back to its original glory.”

Many analysts see the building of a casino in the Meadowlands as inevitable to help the state recapture much of the gambling market it has lost to neighboring states in recent years. Northern New Jersey is the most populous area of New Jersey and a Meadowlands casino would compete with casinos in New York and Pennsylvania.