The Washington Post

Despite New Jersey’s dwindling casino revenue, there’s a proposal to build another one, this time outside New York

The vacant entertainment complex formerly known as Meadowlands Xanadu will open as a mall, and if one group has its way, it will also be neighbors to New Jersey’s newest casino. (Brad Miller Millertime83. Licensed under Creative Commons.)

Revenue from casinos has fallen more sharply in New Jersey more than any other state, but that isn’t dissuading one group for advocating for a state constitutional amendment to build more.

The Meadowlands Regional Chamber, representing businesses in the Northern New Jersey region outside New York City, announced a plan Tuesday to further develop the area with “multiple themed casino districts.”

“We believe a casino would be incredibly successful,” Jim Kirkos, chief executive of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber, told The Post, citing the 6.5 million people who live within 20 miles of the location who now travel elsewhere for gambling in states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania. “They’re driving though and past us to get to those convenience gaming market.”

Casinos in New Jersey are currently only legal in Atlantic City, which has experienced a significant decrease in revenue since the recession, and still hasn’t fully recovered. From 2011 to 2012, commercial casino tax revenue has fallen by 8.2 percent, the steepest drop in the United States, according to American Gaming Association. Part of the decline is a result of an increase in competition: in the past decade, at least 40 commercial casinos have been built in eight states that have legalized them, including nearby New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In July, the Meadowlands Regional Chamber said in a survey of 93 northern New Jersey business leaders found about three-quarters believed Meadowlands was the best location for a new casino in the state. Residents haven’t always been supportive of expanding gambling in the state, Kirkos said, “but the conversation in New Jersey has changed.”

A study released earlier this month by Moody’s, a credit-ratings service, found New Jersey’s prospects for revived casino revenue look bleak. Already this year, one Atlantic City casino has closed, and more are expected. The city stands in stark contrast with Las Vegas, where revenue has recovered, and plans are being developed to build even more casinos. The difference? Las Vegas is more than just a regional destination, and it has revenue streams other than gambling.

Kirkos said the Meadowlands wouldn’t have the same issues as Atlantic City, however, since it’s already an entertainment destination and hosts concerts and sporting events, including the Super Bowl earlier this year.

“The region has a history of attracting big events,” he said.

In addition to a casino district, the group’s proposal also recommends a convention center and a racino at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Hunter Schwarz covers the intersection of politics and pop culture for the Washington Post



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