A gaming expansion may have failed in the state of New Jersey after the most recent ballot vote but legislators are not ready to give up the fight to see more gaming added.
The state of New Jersey currently only has seven casinos in operation, all of which are located in Atlantic City. Legislators had a plan to add gaming to the northern region of the state, ending the monopoly in Atlantic City. Residents were able to vote earlier this month on if two gaming venues could be added and it was decided that NO was the overwhelming answer. Atlantic City will not be helped or harmed by additional gaming elsewhere in the state and now faces a takeover by state officials due to issues with finances.
Legislators Still Want Gaming Expansion
To be able to continue with an expansion into gaming, some lawmakers are looking to allow video lottery terminals at two racetracks in the state. This would include Meadowlands and Monmouth Park. Legislators want to see the changes made without a public vote to be able to increase the revenues provided for the horse racing industry, which continues to struggle financially.
Ralph Caputo, an Assemblyman of the state, has commented that he is currently looking at ways to increase revenues for the tracks in the state without having to resort to a public vote. Based on a ruling in 1982 by Irwin Kimmelman, the Attorney General at the time, lottery terminals do not require a public referendum for changes to be made.
Video lottery terminals, also known as VLTs, are gaming machines that will allow consumers to wager on the outcome of a video game. The terminal is very similar to a slot machine because it uses a random number generator and is a stand-alone device. Back in November, voters decided to do away with the option to add two new casinos to northern region of the state so legislators are considering VLTs as a way to bring in additional revenues.
Seeing Things Differently
While Caputo sees adding VLTs as a way to bring in more revenues, Assemblyman Chris Brown sees the addition as a way to expand gambling by taking the backdoor approach. Brown stated that while he is thrilled that putting the middle class families first and standing up to political bosses and special interests made it possible for the North Jersey casinos plan to be defeated, it is frustrating to Brown to see political bosses and special interests ignoring the will of the people and now saying “voters be damned” in trying to force casinos on families in North Jersey.
Video lottery machines have long been a point of contention for the state as racetracks have wanted to add them and many legislators have not want to see the gaming option offered. Former Governor Donald DiFrancesco spend over three decades in the legislature of the state and spoke recently about how the racetracks should have them and if players want to take part while at the races they should be able to. Another former governor, Jim McGreevey, stated that installing the lottery machines would be of benefit to Atlantic City as well as the horse racing industry.
According to McGreevey, the racing industry will cease to exist if something is not done to help. The former governor feels that this is the right way to do it as it will balance the long-term interest of Atlantic City.
For now, there is no set plan on providing VLTs. However, it would not be surprising to see a plan put in place in the coming weeks or months to try and add the machines to help the overall gaming industry of the state.