The days of Atlantic City’s monopoly on gambling in New Jersey appear to be winding to a close, as a push to open casinos in the Meadowlands continues to gain steam. On Wednesday, Hard Rock International added to the speculation by announcing the unveiling of its plans for a proposed Meadowlands racetrack casino, which would place increased pressure on the struggling gambling industry in America’s Favorite Playground. Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen and Jeff Gural, Chairman of Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, scheduled a press conference on Wednesday to release architectural renderings and an aerial video for the proposed casino.
In addition to being one of the most talked-about locations for a Northern New Jersey casino, the Meadowlands track makes sense for Hard Rock because of the company’s 16 percent ownership stake in the site. According to estimates, a new Hard Rock Meadowlands could generate $1 billion annually in gaming revenue, dwarfing the largest remaining casino in Atlantic City. In an effort to appeal to opponents of expanding gambling, Gural outlined a proposal to use between $200 million and $300 million in annual tax revenue from the new casino to assist in the rebuilding efforts of the famous boardwalk destination.
“My objective is not to destroy Atlantic City in any way,” Gural noted during a panel discussion focused on casinos in North Jersey.
For 37 years, gambling in the Garden State has been limited to Atlantic City, but a growing contingency of legislators and investors are closing in on changing that in the years to come. On Monday, state lawmakers introduced a bill that will put the issue of casinos outside of Atlantic City to a vote, with a referendum considering the approval of up to three casinos in Bergen, Essex or Hudson counties. The referendum has the support of many politicians, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
A new casino in the Meadowlands isn’t without opposition, however. Critics of the proposal cite the recent closure of four casinos In Atlantic City in demonstrating the over-saturation of the New England gambling scene. Conversely, supporters highlight the population density of New York City as a means for supporting North Jersey casinos.
As the industry prepares for the unveiling of plans for a Meadowlands track Casino, Northern New Jersey casinos appear to be an eventuality, and Hard Rock could be the ideal brand to start the movement. In addition to being one of the best-known brands in the entertainment and casino industry, the company’s executives have been open to meeting the demands of Atlantic City supporters. In particular, Gural volunteered to meet the 55 percent tax rate currently in place for Pennsylvania’s casinos, providing ample tax revenue to assist in future rebuilding efforts in the south.
Moving forward, the bill to expand casinos into the north would need to be approved by August 3 to make it onto November’s general election ballot. Despite the opposition, a change in the law is rapidly gaining momentum as the Atlantic City casino industry continues to struggle. Look for this momentum to continue to grow following Wednesday’s unveiling of Hard Rock’s Meadowlands race track proposal.