Expanding Casino Gaming Beyond Atlantic City Isn’t the Best Bet

Atlantic City Casino BoardwalkIt’s a new year, and one where New Jersey is reconsidering expanding its gambling footprint past Atlantic City’s shores. While the statewide referendum to expand casino gaming outside Atlantic City ended in strong defeat in 2016, the idea of it still lingers.

When the question of casino expansion was on the 2016 ballot, it was met mainly with disinterest. Around 77% of voters said “no” the referendum question that stated:

“Do you approve amending the Constitution to permit casino gambling in two additional counties in this State? At present, casino gambling is allowed only in Atlantic City in Atlantic County. Only one casino in each of the two counties would be permitted. Each casino is to be located in a town that is at least 72 miles from Atlantic City. The amendment would allow certain persons to apply first for a casino license. “

At the start of the new two-year legislative session last week, both the Assembly and Senate reintroduced resolutions that support allowing casino gaming in other areas of New Jersey.

The reintroduced resolutions vary and address permitting casino gambling in certain North Jersey counties, as well as supporting the legalization of two gambling parlors outside of Atlantic City.

That makes five resolutions in total filed in the Assembly and one in the Senate that would expand gaming, in some form or another, outside Atlantic City.

What’s Making New Jersey Reconsider?

It’s possible that lawmakers are excited about the prospect of more New Yorkers swarming to a full-scale North New Jersey casino that’s closer to the New York border. The thinking behind it is this: If New Yorkers are willing to cross the New Jersey border to place online sports bets, how much more could they attract it if there were a casino available for players?

With the success of sports betting and online gambling being at an all-time high across the country, it created speculation for a bigger push for a North New Jersey casino last year, though it never materialized.

Why It Wouldn’t Be the Best Bet for Atlantic City

Roger Gros, the publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine, believes now’s not the time to entertain ideas about casino expansion, especially in North Jersey.

“That would be a terrible idea. It would really kind of destroy the progress Atlantic City has made over the past few years.

Any kind of increased land-based competition in New Jersey would completely reverse that positivity and start Atlantic City on a downward spiral once again.”

While Atlantic City casinos are now doing better than they have been for years, some of them continue to struggle. Bad months at the brick-and-mortar casinos can be made up by revenue from online games though, Gros said.

He pointed out that there continues to be discussions about having casinos in New York City and “that will happen eventually.” If a North Jersey casino sees any increase in profit, that may just draw action away from Atlantic City, it would likely only be at the beginning and wouldn’t be as impactful over the long term.

“We just had a referendum two years ago on this very subject: 4 out of 5 voters rejected it and now the politicians want to bring it back? That is the height of insolence,” he said. “What we should really concentrate on is really expanding the internet online and mobile sports betting.”