North Jersey Casino Referendum All But Dead for 2015

More New Jersey politicians are conceding that there is almost no chance that referendum to allow casino outside of Atlantic City will be put before voters in 2015. That means any plan will have to wait until November 2016 for approval.

Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature have broken the news to potential casino developers that no referendum on a proposal to expand gambling to the northern part of the state will be put before state voters this year.

That has sparked anger among proponents, who say new casinos would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for New Jersey and thousands of jobs. But with too many competing plans and proposed casino locations and developments in the mix, there is little chance that a consensus can be built by August 3, the deadline for getting a referendum on the November ballot.

Any expansion plan would need approval from the state’s voters.

“I’m very disappointed. It’s not happening this year. That’s a huge policy mistake,” said state Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat and a vocal proponent of expanding gambling in the state.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, a Republican representing the Atlantic City area who opposes casino expansion, applauded the delay and the lack of political consensus behind a referendum this year.

“I will continue to fight North Jersey casinos this year, next year, the year after, and every year until Atlantic City has fully transitioned into a destination resort,” he said. “We have proven North Jersey casinos are not inevitable and efforts to stop them are having an effect.”

Though lawmakers on both sides have said a 2015 referendum is dead, it’s not officially over until the August 3 deadline. But Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat that would have to move for a vote, has previously said it would be best to wait another year to build consensus in the legislature and support among voters.