It’s not the prettiest sports complex in the world, but the Meadowlands across the Hudson River from New York City could attract a $1 billion casino resort in the coming years should New Jersey voters decide to end Atlantic City’s monopoly on gambling.
New Jersey voters will decide this November if they want to end Atlantic City’s commercial gambling monopoly and allow two casinos to be built in the northern part of the state. It’s a decision that could end a 40-year law that allows casinos to operate within the Atlantic City limits but nowhere else in the Garden State.
Along with choosing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders, New Jersey residents will consider if casinos upstate would be so beneficial to the tax base that it warrants amending the New Jersey Constitution.
As of June 2, voters are evenly split.
The latest polling data issued by Monmouth University shows that among registered voters, 48 percent say they plan to support the proposed change, while another 48 percent say they intend to oppose the referendum.
As expected, the voting demographic supporting the expansion heavily resides in the northern counties. North Jersey voters back the referendum 52-43, while those in South Jersey dissent at 42-54.
‘The fate of the casino expansion measure is anyone’s guess,’ Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said. ‘The public does not express overwhelming confidence that adding North Jersey casinos will be an economic boon and there is widespread concern that this would hurt an already precarious Atlantic City.’
No one is interested in the outcome of the November referendum more than the power players in Atlantic City. And when it comes to the multibillion-dollar individuals and companies operating in the beachfront resort city, opinions seem to differ.
Carl Icahn, who acquired the Trump Taj Mahal in February along with its hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, planned to renovate the property and pump an additional $100 million into the property. But that investment came with the stipulation that casinos would remain exclusive to Atlantic City.
‘It would not be judicious to proceed with those investments while gaming in north Jersey is an open issue, and we will have to wait to see the outcome of those proposals,’ Icahn said in March.
While Icahn waits for the November referendum outcome, MGM has already not only called, but made a substantial bet on Atlantic City. As Casino.org reported, MGM Resorts International is buying out Boyd Gaming’s 50 percent share of the Borgata Hotel Casino for $900 million.
That will give MGM 100 percent ownership of the plushest resort in town.
MGM CEO Jim Murren conceded in a press release that ‘the market continues to experience challenges,’ but his company apparently still feels confident that the last 10 years, which saw casino revenue decline each year, can be reversed.
Should the referendum be approved, a portion of the tax revenue received by the state from the two north casinos would be directed to aid in Atlantic City’s recovery.
Boyd Gaming is taking its winnings and stepping away, Icahn is still at the table, and MGM is going all-in.
This November, the voters will deal the river card, Icahn will make his final bet, and everyone will be forced to live with their hand.
Las Vegas Mayor Says Stadium, Not Sports Gambling, is Biggest Hurdle in Landing NFL Team
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is hoping the city can find the financial resources to partially fund a professional football stadium and bring Mark Davis’ Oakland Raiders to the Strip. (Image: fox5vegas.com)
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman (D) says her city’s legalized sports betting market won’t hamper its chances of landing a NFL franchise. Instead, the 77-year-old mayor who replaced her husband in the chief executive role of the city in 2011 says funding the construction of an adequate stadium presents a much more substantial hurdle to overcome.
Appearing on ESPN’s ‘Face to Face’ with Hannah Storm on June 1, Goodman said, ‘It’s always about the money and whether or not the public is going to have any participation. We are pretty much funded by room tax here . . . Most of the people that live here, as in other parts of the country, don’t want their personal money involved but we’re lucky because our tourist base really is the money we’re looking for.’
Goodman’s comments are in response to the $1.3-$1.4 billion domed stadium being proposed by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis along with Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Davis has offered up $500 million for the construction, and Adelson and Majestic Realty would contribute $150 million towards the project that would stand just steps from McCarran International Airport.
The remaining $650-$750 million would need to come from the city, and proponents of the stadium have suggested using revenues generated from the city’s hotel occupancy tax to cover the costs.
The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee heard the pitch from Davis and Adelson on May 26, and could make a decision as early as its next meeting, June 23, on whether it will recommend using the hotel occupancy money for the stadium.
It’s worth noting that Goodman’s jurisdiction covers the downtown Las Vegas area, not the Strip. The famed 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard S resides in one of Nevada’s unincorporated zones.
Owners Remain Relatively Quiet
Goodman’s opinion that the city’s widespread gambling isn’t an issue in relocating professional football to the area seems to be supported by the actual NFL owners. Should Davis file to move to Las Vegas, three-quarters of the league’s owners would need to vote in its favor.
While the NFL has been outspoken in its opposition to sports betting, the owners have largely stayed on the sidelines when it comes to addressing the issue. Monday Morning Quarterback’s Jenny Vrentas recently caught up with five owners who all expressed some sort of support for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Woody Johnson (Jets), Jed York (49ers), Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles), Bob McNair (Texans), and John Mara (Giants) all hinted to Vrentas that they wouldn’t vote against relocation should the city and team develop the appropriate strategy.
York, who owns the Raiders’ neighboring foe the San Francisco 49ers, said, ‘I think the stigma about Las Vegas is much different today.’
Heavily Reviewed by Review-Journal
Sheldon Adelson desperately wants the Raiders to come to the town where he’s made his billions. And like the casino tycoon, Goodman believes the cost to build the stadium will be greatly offset by the economic benefit professional football would provide.
‘The economic boon to the entire community will far outweigh any cost,’ Goodman declared.
In addition to putting up $150 million, Adelson’s staff at the Las Vegas Review-Journal is doing its best to continuously publish stories that seem supportive of bringing the Raiders to the desert. On what is an almost daily occurrence, Nevada’s largest newspaper gives ample print space to the Adelson-Raiders story.
Wynn Boston Harbor Environmental Permit Panned by Former DEP Commissioner
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone is standing in the way of Wynn Boston Harbor construction, but the casino’s odds seem to be moving in its favor. (Image: Angela Rowlings /Boston Herald)
Wynn Boston Harbor received an environmental permit in January from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), but a former DEP commissioner testified on June 2 that more stringent protocols and mandates should have been incorporated into the project’s approval.
Speaking at a DEP hearing in Boston, former department Commissioner Robert Golledge opined that the agency failed to properly protect the Boston, Everett, and Somerville communities by approving what he called a mitigation package that is ‘essentially average.’
‘Given the size, mass, and location . . . I would have expected a much larger and more robust mitigation package,’ Golledge said, as reported by the Boston Globe.
Wynn for the Win
The DEP hearing was the result of Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone (D) appealing the permit issuance in January, a motion that has forced Wynn to halt construction on the $2 billion casino resort.
Wynn reached two separate agreements with Boston and Somerville in 2015 to pay each city annually to offset the additional congestion caused by the casino to the already gridlocked area.
However, the money is significantly different.
Wynn agreed to pay $2 million each year for the next 15 years to Boston, but only $650,000 annually to Somerville.
The Wynn Boston Harbor would be built just across the Mystic River via the Malden Bridge.
Billionaire Steve Wynn has been blunt in dealing with Curtatone. ‘The chances of the mayor of Somerville getting any extra money from us are zero,’ Wynn said in March.
Curtatone’s Curtain Call
The DPE hearing didn’t seem to present much optimism for Curtatone. The DEP said according to the permit’s conditions, Wynn has met all of the requirements and should be allowed to move forward.
Representatives of the Las Vegas casino company hyped its six-acre waterfront park that will be made available to the general public. The area is currently closed off due to chemical contaminations stemming from the defunct Monsanto chemical plant that previously called the acreage home.
Wynn was in the process of cleaning the land when Curtatone stepped in.
Curtatone says the casino, expected to increase traffic in the area by 18,000 cars a day, would create so much pollution that the project needs to be blocked. Wynn retorted by claiming Curtatone is all smoke and mirrors in overlooking the fact Wynn Boston Harbor would create 4,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent casino positions.
DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg is tasked with determining if the DEP permit needs amending, but that decision isn’t expected until next month or even August.
In the meantime, Curtatone is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money fighting Wynn. According to Boston.com, since last July when Somerville’s fiscal year commenced, Curtatone has spent $399,758 on legal fees for the Wynn fight.
But it seems the clock is ticking on his ongoing efforts. Curtatone understandably wants to get the most bang for his buck for his city, but he’s facing a billionaire who is no stranger to getting what he wants.
The odds would seem to favor Wynn Boston Harbor getting back to work in the coming months.
More Atlantic City Casinos Would Close if Gambling Expands, Analysts Opine
The Boardwalk might get a little darker in the coming years if New Jersey allows casinos to come north, as Fitch Ratings predicts four more Atlantic City casinos could close should the referendum pass. (Image: John Greim/Getty Images)
Atlantic City casinos are struggling to make ends meet, and their situation will only grow dire if voters in New Jersey approve a referendum in November to end the city’s gambling monopoly and allow two commercial resorts to be built in northern counties.
Fitch Ratings, one of the so-called ‘Big Three’ credit rating agencies along with Moody’s and Standard & Poor, issued a report on June 2 that said up to four of Atlantic City’s eight remaining casinos would be susceptible to closure if gambling expands outside of the city’s limits.
Fitch specifically identified Trump Taj Mahal, Resorts Casino, and Golden Nugget as most susceptible, with Bally’s Atlantic City the fourth venue that would expectedly suffer from gaming expansion.
‘Fitch estimates a roughly 25 percent decline in Atlantic City’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) would wipe out the operating profit before management fees of Golden Nugget, the most profitable of the three,’ Fitch Gaming, Lodging & Leisure Associate Director Colin Mansfield said. ‘Declines of 10 percent and 20 percent in GGR would put Taj Mahal and Resorts at risk, respectively, under the same assumptions. Bally’s AC could also face an uncertain future.’
No Rush to Conclusions
Though Fitch believes half of the remaining casinos in Atlantic City could close as a result of ending the city’s 40-year monopoly on commercial gambling, that won’t actually be happening anytime soon. ‘Even if the referendum does pass, Fitch believes it will be at least four years until a casino could realistically open,’ Mansfield stated.
Regardless, the forecast from Fitch could impact how voters in the Garden State feel before heading into the polls in less than six months.
The most recent data from the Monmouth University Polling Institute shows residents in a dead heat and split 48-48 when it comes to supporting or opposing the referendum.
Governor Chris Christie (R) is a leading supporter of allowing two casinos to be built, most likely at the Meadowlands Sports Complex and in Jersey City. Christie and others say the two casinos, which would be required to make a $1 billion minimum investment, would actually benefit Atlantic City through tax revenue aid.
In late May, Christie authorized a relief package for Atlantic City on the condition that the local government would cut costs and balance a budget in the next five months.