Readers of this blog love horse racing. We may be interested in the unfair advantages the Atlantic City casino industry has which is costing New Jersey taxpayers. Like political parties, this op-ed piece may rile the rank and file into action, make monetary contributions to help fund a pro-Meadowlands casino campaign, and ensure their votes should a referendum actually come to fruition; the same way the casino interests are riling up their base.
Unfortunately, this battle will not be won alone with the help of the pro-racing base. The success or failure of a campaign to get VLTs or a full casino to the Meadowlands will be won by gaining the support of the electorate at large. Uproar by the voters will get the Senate President to allow a VLT bill to be posted for voting and get the legislators to approve a bill. Since an expansion of gaming in the state needs the approval of a referendum by the votes, it is the electorate who may determine the fate of horse racing in the State of New Jersey, and in the case of standardbred racing, perhaps the nation. We need to focus the campaign on the benefits to the electorate.
The vast majority of New Jersey residents don't care Atlantic City casinos are paying less tax in New Jersey than they pay in other states. As far as they know and will be told, the casinos contribute to the New Jersey economy; perhaps even told if their tax rate is increased, the casino industry will leave Atlantic City taking away the revenue they raise for the state. Even if some voters care the casino industry is getting a sweetheart deal, is this the focus of the SBOANJ and NJTBA campaign? No. Would racing interests be served if the casino industry had their tax rate raised? No. The goal is to get a casino at the Meadowlands. Talk about that; everything else is noise.
What will interest the taxpayers is how a casino at the Meadowlands will benefit them. The argument will be won by telling them about the potential of millions of dollars in tax revenue being recovered in New Jersey and telling them the expansion of gaming in the state will not hurt Atlantic City; the damage has already been done. The benefit to racing is actually a minor point. Sure you can mention it as a secondary issue but it is not going to win many votes; the reality is there are not as many people who care about racing like we do.
The following issues should be discussed in order of importance:
- Benefits to the Taxpayers
- How much revenue is the state government losing to out of state governments? Bring that revenue home.
- The jobs which would be created, putting New Jerseyans to work.
- If being run by the NJ Lottery, how the revenue will go to help schools; slowing the increase in school taxes which are the biggest portion of property taxes which happen to be the highest in the nation.
- Reality is people are going to travel to the closest casino available. Why are the casinos making NJ taxpayers spend their gambling and discretionary dollars in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware when they could be spending their time and money in New Jersey at a Meadowlands casino?
- The reality is the monopoly is already gone. Look around our borders, we are surrounded by casinos; not just VLTs, card games have come to Delaware and Pennsylvania.
- If the casinos were so worried about Atlantic City, why were they first in line to open casinos in states competing against Atlantic City?
- The casinos promised to rebuild Atlantic City into a destination place. They failed; rebuilding Atlantic City is not just building new casinos and having them surrounded by urban blight.
- Studies show VLTs in the Meadowlands would have a negligible impact on Atlantic City.
- Brings NJ gambling dollars back in state where the treasury benefits.
- By having a casino at the racetrack, it helps maintain green open space in the most densely populated state.
- Maintains agricultural and ancillary jobs in the state; which brings in more tax revenue to the state. Again, creates more jobs in the state.