Chamber Voices Opposition to Expanding Gaming in New Jersey

Chamber Voices Opposition to Expanding Gaming in New Jersey

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The following statement was issued to the media and public officials on behalf of the Chamber and its Business Advocacy committee...

Atlantic County business leaders today reiterated their longstanding opposition to the expansion of gaming outside Atlantic City, noting that it is bad public policy to attempt to reallocate gaming dollars from one part of the state to another in an already saturated regional gaming market.

“While the casino industry in Atlantic City has come under significant pressure from a nation-wide economic slump and increased competition from neighboring states, it is still a source of tremendous economic impact to this region, and to the entire state,” said Joseph D Kelly, President of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

The Chamber has been advocating for lowering the cost of government in Atlantic City, supporting a stable business environment, seeking new investment and working to create jobs. Now we must work with others to address efforts to create more casinos in New Jersey.

The latest legislative proposal, if approved by three-fifths of state legislators by August 1st, would place the question on the November ballot for voters to decide on the expansion of casino gaming beyond Atlantic City.

According to Kelly, the key issues impacting the local business community from this legislative proposal would include substantially more lost jobs, undermining an already uncertain regional investment climate, and an absence of reliable data on what actual benefits would be derived from expanding gaming in North Jersey.

“It is impossible for our business members and their employees to see benefits to Atlantic County from more gaming competition within the state, when it is clear that more jobs will be lost and there is no clearly defined commitment or agreement on what will be done for our area of the state,” said Kelly. “We need to be part of the discussion now.”

Since January 2014, four Atlantic City casinos have closed their doors due to the oversupply of casino gambling venues. The closure of Revel, Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza and Showboat properties have resulted in the loss of 7,700 direct jobs, $240 million in lost wages and over $30 million in tax revenue.

The expansion of gaming beyond Atlantic City could further lead to the loss of up to 14,550 direct and indirect jobs from the potential closure of an additional two to four casino hotels. Lost direct wages from those closings would amount to $230.9 million, resulting in reduced revenues to the state for wage-related taxes, lost fee-related revenue, potential impairment of publicly traded municipal and state authority debt, and the near doubling of Atlantic County’s unemployment rate to 23% from its current level of 12%, which is already twice the state average.

“There can be no doubt as to the contribution to the state’s economic well-being from Atlantic City casinos,” said Mitchell Zitomer, Chair of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber. “The Atlantic City gaming industry revenues support a variety of state programs, debt service on state authority bonds and the bulk of the Atlantic County economy.

The Chamber noted that national studies indicate that more casinos do not equal more gaming revenue. They pointed to data indicating that growth in gamblers has remained constant over the last five years, while growth in gaming facilities has increased 38%. More than half the population in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast now lives within 25 miles of a casino featuring video lotteries, table games or slot machines, up from about 10 percent a decade ago. In 1978, only Las Vegas and Atlantic City had casino gaming. Today 24 states have such facilities, with several other states expected to follow. In fact, of the nine eastern states with casino gambling, only New York and Maryland were able to show improvement in 2013 over 2012.

Atlantic City is still in the early stages of a profoundly important transition from a gaming centric destination to a diversified tourist destination featuring world class dining, entertainment, retail and recreational offerings. It is crucial that our elected officials support that continued evolution and not undermine it by establishing in-state competition for gaming dollars. For more than 35 years, Atlantic City has been an enormously powerful economic engine for New Jersey. Now is the time to support our city and our region, not inflict irreparable harm through ill-advised legislation.