Op-Ed: Vote NO on the Casino Expansion This Fall

By Jordan Chester | The Save Jersey Blog

Save Jerseyans: you have a choice to make this November. Casino gambling is on the ballot this fall. Four decades ago, New Jersey’s constitution was amended to require that only Atlantic City can house casino gambling. Now, the opportunity to reverse that constitutional amendment has presented itself – and you will have the chance to decide if Atlantic City will keep its monopoly on casino gaming or not.

Let me say that first of all, I do not gamble. I don’t have a moral objection to it, I simply would rather use my money for other things. With that being said, I believe that the free market should determine the number and locations of casinos in our state.

Concept art for the proposed Meadowlands-based Hard Rock Casino
Concept art for the proposed Meadowlands-based Hard Rock Casino

I also believe we are losing millions of dollars each year by not having casinos in the northern and central parts of our state because residents in those areas travel to Pennsylvania and New York to gamble and enjoy the entertainment of casinos. Every day that Atlantic City has a monopoly on gaming is a day New York and Pennsylvania enjoy revenue New Jersey could have to reduce taxes, pay down debt, and fix our roads.

Despite my philosophical support of casino gambling outside of Atlantic City, I will be opposing the constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall.

Why? The amendment being proposed would only allow for two more casinos more than seventy-two miles outside of Atlantic City. Additionally, part of the tax revenue the state would receive from these new casinos would go to fund “recovery, stabilization, or improvement of Atlantic City.”

The fact of the matter is Atlantic City is in a world of trouble. According to statistics from the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report, Atlantic City has more violent crime than all but one municipality in our state. The website Public School Review states that the city’s high school graduation rate of 69% is lower than the state average of 94%. Casinos and hotels are going out of business left and right. While New Jersey’s unemployment rate is 6.5%, Atlantic City has an unemployment rate of 15.4% – higher than that of Newark, Paterson, Trenton, and even Camden.

The problems Atlantic City has today were not created by state government, though Trenton has subsidized poor decisions made by city government. Additionally, these problems were not created by Mayor Don Guardian. They were created by years of fiscal mismanagement, a lack of commitment to economic diversification, a failure to improve education in the city, and an unwillingness of city government to support police in tackling problems associated with crime much like Mayors Rudy Giuliani of New York City and Bret Schundler of Jersey City did in the 1990s. Giving even more money to a failing city is not going to save it.

In the long run, it is my hope that New Jersey does reverse the 1976 constitutional amendment giving Atlantic City exclusive rights over casino gaming.

But the constitutional amendment that will appear on your ballot this fall is not the right avenue to make that happen.

If you believe as I do that New Jersey taxpayers have sent enough money to Atlantic City, that only Atlantic City can save Atlantic City, and that the free market should determine the locations of businesses and not government, then I urge you to join me in opposing this constitutional amendment.

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