As you know, we have been continually reporting on the plight of Atlantic City which is arguably one of the more popular entertainment destinations on the East Coast. You can read our prior blogs here. We have reported on new ventures, new ideas, and basically any efforts to try to revitalize the City by the Sea. Now word comes that voters might be asked to amend the state constitution to allow for casino gambling outside of Atlantic City’s borders. But is this the answer and what happens to Atlantic City if that in fact happens?
On June 1 a trio of lawmakers from Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties in New Jersey (all North Jersey counties by the way) announced with great fanfare that they would push to have a question put on the November ballot asking voters to amend the constitution to allow for casino gambling in North Jersey. Commentators have said that it is more likely that the New Jersey Legislature will not act on the proposal until 2016. Obviously, the idea is whether casinos should be allowed in these respective North Jersey counties.
In case you did not know, in 1976 New Jersey voters decided to amend our State constitution to allow for casino gambling but the amendment restricted it to Atlantic City. However, in recent years with four casinos folding there appears to be some interest in moving gambling beyond Atlantic City.
Although Atlantic City markets itself as a resort destination it is debatable to some whether that is indeed true. Many of the areas surrounding the casinos are blighted, Atlantic City is no longer in line to compete Las Vegas, and, newer casinos have popped up in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Thus, perhaps as an indication of the failed efforts in Atlantic City, some politicians have suggested that casinos be put up in the Hackensack Meadowlands (the New York football Giants play there as well the N.Y. Jets), Newark, and Jersey City which is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
But keep one thing in mind. It’s not that simple to just put a question of this sort on the ballot and three-fifths majorities in both houses will be needed to do just that. However, putting aside the issue of even getting the question on the ballot, it is compelling and indeed riveting to watch and listen to the different pundits who are arguing on both sides of the aisle in favor of and in opposition to this proposal.
For example, some have said that the monopoly that was given to Atlantic City was squandered. Others say that the market is oversaturated to begin with so why make the situation worse with adding more casinos anywhere in New Jersey. Then there are the Southern Jersey advocates who speak of stability brought to their region (albeit diminishing stability) because of the casinos followed by the North Jersey advocates who simply smell money and want a piece of the pie for their respective counties.
This will undoubtedly be a hotly politicized issue when our Legislature gets around to it. But more disturbingly, the Legislature appears to be heading towards getting to it (i.e, the issue of expanding gambling in New Jersey). That means possible change. For Atlantic City, this kind of change—if it ever happens—could be catastrophic. Whatever needs to be done to fix Atlantic City’s problems—if indeed it is not too late to do that—better happen soon, and very soon.
In poker terms this situation is sounding and looking much like a “call.” Thus, it would appear that if the stakes in Atlantic City are not raised the whole experience there could be deemed to have been a losing hand. Let’s hope for better odds than that.