From the Record:
Analysts are offering a tempered endorsement of the concept of two North Jersey casinos being championed by a number of state Democratic lawmakers, but they cautioned against overestimating returns in an increasingly saturated region for gambling.
More than a dozen casinos and racinos have opened in nearby states in the past decade, and more are likely to come on line in the near future in New York and Pennsylvania.
Still, the analysts say, North Jersey is a big affluent market, capable of supporting two casinos — in part by generating new business and attracting residents who now travel to casinos in neighboring states.
“Let’s recapture that revenue we’ve lost,” said Steve Norton, a private gambling consultant who once served as an executive with Atlantic City Resorts.
Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, said that the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack serves as a case in point of how a well-placed gambling venue can be a big winner. Centrally located in the middle of Queens, the site produced $435 million in tax revenue for New York last year, double what New Jersey received from its entire Atlantic City casino industry.
“You can see from Aqueduct how successful a casino can be when it comes into a large market,” Gros said.
The future of New Jersey’s casino industry is a huge issue for state officials, who in recent years have watched tax revenue plummet along with the fortunes of the state’s only casinos in Atlantic City.
Talk of an end to the seaside resort’s monopoly has increased dramatically since Governor Christie backed recent comments by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester County, that lifted a five-year moratorium on such discussions in Trenton. Sweeney suggested the issue may go to voters statewide in a November 2015 referendum, a move that would likely cut a full year off the timeline for the possible addition of casinos elsewhere in New Jersey.
The changing landscape was underscored by revelations last week of a $4.6 billion preliminary proposal for a 95-story casino, 100,000-seat auto racing track and giant Ferris wheel near the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City. Backers of a Meadowlands casino have tried to make sure that the sports complex in East Rutherford also remains a likely site for a casino.
Supporters of North Jersey casinos, including state Sens. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge and Raymond Lesniak of Union County said the state treasury could reap at least $500 million a year, based on a tax rate of 50 percent or more on casino operations, similar to rates in New York and Pennsylvania.