From the WSJ:
After a bitter battle over a proposed state takeover of Atlantic City, supporters of a gambling expansion are ramping up efforts to convince voters to allow two new casinos in the northern part of New Jersey.
Lawmakers agreed in January to allow a ballot referendum this fall on a proposal to expand casinos into northern New Jersey.
Gambling parlors are restricted to Atlantic City, and some fear the city’s financial problems—and the lengthy, acrimonious debate over how to keep it out of bankruptcy—may have soured the state’s voters on casinos.
“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to pass gaming in northern New Jersey,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat. “People are seeing what’s going on with gaming and looking at all the problems and reading all the headlines…and saying, ‘Is that really what we want for our town?’ ”
Mr. Sweeney, a co-sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment to allow gambling in northern New Jersey, said he isn’t “giving up yet” on the Nov. 8 referendum. On Friday, he attended a rally in support of the expansion in Rutherford, near the Meadowlands site where New York real estate mogul Jeffrey Gural wants to build a $1.3 billion casino in partnership with Hard Rock International.
Last week, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed legislation that gives the city, which opposes a state takeover, until October to balance its budget. Now that the Atlantic City legislative battle is over, “we’ve been able to go on the offensive,” Mr. Gural said.
Mr. Gural said he is planning an aggressive social media and public campaign ahead of the November election, but doesn’t know yet how much he will spend.
A Fitch Ratings analysis released Thursday said the expansion of gambling in northern New Jersey could cause up to four Atlantic City casinos to close.
Mr. Sweeney said he believes northern New Jersey casinos would more likely compete with casinos in New York and Pennsylvania than those in Atlantic City.