Andrew Cohen is the guest blogger today on the Newark Start Ledger's NJVoices Guest Blog regarding New Jersey's financial crisis and how the solution can save the state's horse racing industry. His entry is an example of how the campaign for a casino at the Meadowlands should be presented to its residents, similar to the 'talking points' I mentioned when I said any such campaign needs to be focused in its message.
Sure there is mention of how a casino would save the New Jersey horse racing industry, but it is presented in a ‘by the way’ manner; the intent of a Meadowlands casino is to bring relief to the New Jersey taxpayer; something the New Jersey voter can relate to and appreciate. There is even a discussion on how the New Jersey Casino industry gets a sweetheart deal on its tax rate. While the article suggests the tax rate charged to casinos could be raised to be more in line with the tax rate charged in most states (something I think is not important to the debate), instead of other articles painting the casino industry as the evil empire, Cohen doesn’t focus on the unfair advantages the Atlantic City interests have; he mentions how a casino in the Meadowlands would actually benefit the casino industry.
What is Cohen’s main point in his guest blog? Rather than taxing people more, let the state raise revenue from people who are more than willing to give it. With this revenue you can help people, save jobs, and save businesses at the same time. This is something the average tax payer in New Jersey can relate to.
Cohen also mentions it makes no sense for Atlantic City casinos to block a gaming/racing venture in New Jersey when they are actively promoting similar activities in Pennsylvania and New York (by the way taking revenue which could benefit New Jersey and giving it to other states); they say one thing and do another. He also mentions how a casino at the Meadowlands makes can raise a large amount of revenue for the state allowing the government and citizens to help their most vulnerable citizens without a need to raise taxes.
The casino interests will make the argument that a Meadowlands casino is all about saving the horse racing industry; there is no need to reinforce the point. The debate needs to center on how introducing casino gaming at a new location will benefit the taxpayer. This is how you win the voters' support; promoting the taxpayers' interests first; your's last.