It’s Official: No Casino Expansion Vote in New Jersey this Year

New Jersey Senate President Steven Sweeney (l.) has confirmed that a referendum to allow casinos to expand beyond Atlantic City in the state will not go before New Jersey voters this November. Several competing proposals have clouded a chance at a consensus plan, leaving lawmakers to now shoot for a 2016 referendum.

The last shoe has dropped in New Jersey’s efforts to have a referendum to expand casino gaming in the state before voters in November, and the issue will now likely have to wait until next year.

State Senate president Steven Sweeney confirmed that there simply isn’t enough time to hash out a plan for casinos in North Jersey and adopt the legislation needed for a November ballot question.

There have been several proposals to locate casinos at various sites including the Meadowlands, Jersey City and several other northern New Jersey counties. Each of the plans have their supporters and detractors.

But before any casino can be built in the state outside of Atlantic City, voters must approve a change in the state’s constitution.

Sweeney has expressed skepticism about a plan introduced in the state Assembly to expand gambling to Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties, saying he prefers a more deliberative to decide on a plan to put before voters. He has also said repeatedly that any plan has to include provisions to help Atlantic City redevelop itself as a more well-rounded resort.

“I said all along there needed to be a public discussion,” Sweeney said. “What we want to make sure is if there is an expansion, Atlantic City is taken care of.”

Legislators still have until August 3 to pass a measure to go before voters, but without Sweeney’s support to call a vote—and considering that the legislature is on summer break—that’s almost impossible. Sweeney is also rumored to be concerned that voters turning out to vote on the measure in November could hurt several Democratic candidates in southern New Jersey up for re-election.

Democratic Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a sponsor of plan introduced in the Assembly, said he expected that the bill would be delayed.

“It is what it is,” Caputo said. “Meaning we’re not going to give up on this issue. … It’s going to be back on the agenda.”

Still, with so many bills for new casinos being proposed, you have to wonder if an agreement can be reached in time for 2016’s election. Sweeney has said he supports casino expansion, but did not say he would push for a 2016 referendum.

Major casino proposals have been made for t the Meadowlands—by Hard Rock International—and in Jersey City. Another bill proposes a referendum authorizing two new casinos in the northern part of the state and one in central New Jersey that would allow Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport NJ to be considered for a casino.

“That’s why if we have a discussion, I think we will come out with a better solution,” Sweeney said.