State Takeover, No North Jersey Casinos: Good or Bad for Atlantic City?
If investors were hesitant to enter the Atlantic City market due to the possibility of casino development in North Jersey, those concerns were put to bed last week - at least for now.
About 80 percent of New Jersey voters said "no" to Public Question No. 1, which would have allowed for two new casinos in separate northern counties of the state.
"When there is imminent competition coming into the area, investors will always think about that," said Dr. Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University.
Now, he said, those "wait and see" investors can make a move.
Pandit believes if the issue makes its way to the voters again, it would not be at least for a few years.
Not long after the question's defeat, supporters of North Jersey gaming indicated the idea still has legs. Lawmakers and industry giants suggested voters would be more open to expansion if the ballot question spelled out a more specific plan, including one specific location.
Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, said investors may be keeping a closer eye on the recent state takeover the city's financial woes, rather than the ballot question.
The state Local Finance Board approved the move on Wednesday, giving the state authority to break union contracts in Atlantic City, sell assets, hire or fire workers and enter shared services agreements - with a goal of putting a sizeable dent in the city's $100 million budget deficit and $500 million in debt.
"It's really unclear about what the state is going to do now, so that's actually throwing a bigger monkey wrench into the reinvestment possibilities for Atlantic City," Gros said. "It's just another thing that makes uncertainty reign in Atlantic City."
Before Wednesday's vote, city officials had five months to craft a financial recovery plan that the state would accept. Their initial plan, plus a supplemental proposal, were both denied. But the state has not since detailed a plan of its own to manage the city.