Living in New Jersey, I have been surprised by the fact I have not seen any materials or advertisements regarding the referendum on expanding gaming to North Jersey, with its assumption of a casino at the Meadowlands which would help fund purses for horse racing. Being most campaigns begin in earnest after Labor Day, I imagine this shouldn't have surprised me.
Unfortunately, while the campaign may not kick off in earnest until Labor Day, movement in public opinion regarding gaming in North Jersey does not wait for Labor Day and it has changed, for the worse. What seem to have been a 50-50 proposition has now become a 35%-57% deficit. The referendum is not a lost cause but it does have its obstacles.
First of all, the remaining Atlantic City casinos have mobilized businesses in South Jersey to form the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, a coalition which also includes elected officials and others. This group is expected to put a lot of money into this campaign to defeat the referendum. Does the pro-casino forces have the finances and will to meet their opponents in what is expected to be an expensive campaign?
While no one is saying it, Governor Christie appears to have done it to racing once again. The Governor, who promised to be a cheerleader for this referendum, is likely to be missing in action through the election day. Whether he becomes Donald Trump's Vice-Presidential nominee or not, it appears the Governor has forsaken New Jersey for the bright lights of a national campaign. Hence, the use of the Gubernatorial bully-pulpit to marshal support for the referendum is gone.
South Jersey sees North Jersey casinos as a net loss for South Jersey as more casinos are likely to close as some gaming revenue will be lost to the North. One has to wonder if people in North Jersey see the benefit of gaming in North Jersey to be short-lived as it won't be long until New York 'retaliates' either by allowing Yonkers and Aqueduct to convert to regular casinos or allows casinos to come to New York City. It is up to the pro-casino group to address these concerns and convince voters the benefits outweigh the risks.
All is not lost, but those who want to see gaming in North Jersey need to redouble their efforts. The one thing they can't afford is to allow the gap in the polls to grow any further. New Jersey Voters need to see this will be a win-win for the state and not just future white elephants.