North Jersey Casino Supporters Plan Marketing Campaign

A move to allow casinos outside of Atlantic City will not go before New Jersey voters this year, but supporters of the plan now say they will use the extra time to create and an ad campaign in support of the idea. Polls have shown that a majority of New Jersey residents are against expanding casinos, but Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural (l.) says they can change the public’s mind.

With the chance of a referendum on expanding New Jersey casinos to the northern part of the state now dead for this year, supporters say they will use the time to make the case for casino expansion to state voters.

Advocates of casino expansion in the state are set to spend $10 million to $15 million on advertising to support the idea. And the campaign may be needed as most polls have shown New Jersey residents are not in favor of allowing casinos outside of Atlantic City.

The most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll in June found 56 percent of New Jersey residents opposed expanding casino gambling and just 37 percent favored it.

“I think we would have to,” Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural—who is partnering with Hard Rock on a proposed casino on the property in East Rutherford—told “From what I see when we do polling, if you simply ask the question, ‘Are you in favor of expanding gambling?’ the immediate reaction is no. Why would we expand gambling because Atlantic City is doing badly? Why add casinos?”

“But when we say, ‘Would you be in favor at the Meadowlands if we give the state $500 million a year and some of that money would go to help Atlantic City recover and rebuild?’ then it would be a positive,” Gural said. “The key to us to get the referendum passed is to get the message out. If we can’t get the message out, it will lose.”

Complicating the issue is the number of casino proposals that are being played out for other parts of the state. Casinos have been proposed in the Meadowlands and Jersey City, and other plans want to open up several northern New Jersey counties to possible casinos.

The move is also bitterly opposed by many southern New Jersey politicians looking to protect Atlantic City, which saw four casinos in the resort close in 2014.

Gural also said he feels a referendum would have succeeded this November.

“It was a terrible mistake not going in 2015,” he said. “I think it would have passed easily in 2015. I think 2016 is harder because it’s more expensive and getting your message out is that much harder because you’re competing with a presidential and congressional election.”