During the day, downtown Newark is a thriving community filled with office workers, college students and shoppers.
But after 5 p.m. on most days, downtown Newark empties out on as workers rush home and shop keepers and restaurateurs roll down their security gates.
There are exceptions, of course. When the Prudential Center and NJPAC host events, restaurants and bars around those venues are hopping with patrons having a great time and, more importantly, spending money in our city.
Newark has proven that it can be an attractive destination for those who live beyond our borders. But there is so much more that we can do to encourage visitors to come to our city after the sun sets.
Imagine a casino in downtown Newark that would not only help keep commuters in the city a little longer, but also attract visitors from New York and those who have time to kill while waiting at Newark Liberty International Airport.
A casino in Newark is a very real possibility now that the state Legislature is considering a ballot measure asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling outside of Atlantic City,
Not only would a casino in Newark enhance the city’s night-life, it would also create much needed jobs for our residents while pumping money back into our city’s economy.
The Borgata in Atlantic City employs more than 7,000 people. A casino even half that size in Newark would make a real dent in the city’s high unemployment rate and could change our many of our citizens’ lives for the better with jobs that offer competitive salaries, benefits and the possibility of advancement.
I sympathize with the employees who have lost their jobs recently as casinos in Atlantic City were forced to close. There are few things in life that are worse than losing a good paying job.
Opening a casino in Newark will actually help Atlantic City since some of the money that will be generated in our city will go toward stabilizing and rebuilding the seaside resort.
Gambling is certainly not the panacea that we all thought it would be when casinos were first legalized in Atlantic City in the 1976. Perhaps the most important takeaway from Atlantic City is that a community’s entire economy shouldn’t be build around a single industry.
Newark already has the most diverse economy in the state with a healthy mix of blue- and white-collar jobs. A casino would further diversify Newark’s economy, offering employment opportunities for our residents in the heart of the city.
Newark is an ideal location to attract out-of-state gamblers. The city is easily accessible to New York and the rest of New Jersey by rail as well as the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, I-78 and I-280.
More than 35 million passengers every year move through Newark Liberty International Airport. If even a small fraction of those passengers ventured from the airport to our casino, it would supply a steady stream of customers.
A casino combined with a convention center could put the city on the map as a destination for visitors from both in state and out as a more affordable option to New York. Newark has much to offer conventioneers. See for yourself at newarkhappening.com run by the Greater Newark Convention and Visitor Bureau.
The tax revenues generated by a casino will also help stabilize Newark’s finances, allowing the city to wean itself from state government aid and begin investing in affordable housing, job training and public safety.
Casino gambling will benefit Newark by creating jobs for residents, generating tax revenues and making the city come alive after hours. The Legislature should approve the measure placing a constitutional amendment authorizing casinos outside of Atlantic City on the ballot in November.
Anibal Ramos Jr. is the councilman representing Newark’s North Ward.