TRENTON – State Senator Bob Gordon (D-38), whose legislative district abuts the area of one proposed North Jersey casino site, expressed support for a Meadowlands bid, but wondered aloud if the regional gaming gambit should stop all together.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to pick a location, but my first choice would be the Meadowlands. I think the most critical thing for all of us to do is ask ourselves, before we start putting casinos all over the place, what will the market support?” Gordon told PolitickerNJ in a recent interview at the State House in Trenton. “There are over 60 casinos in the Northeast. All of the Wall Street advisers and analysts who are following the gaming industry are telling us that the market is already saturated.”
Gordon’s call for caution came as North Jersey politicians continue to roll the dice on potential casino projects to cure the region’s economic ills, even in the face of the increasing failure of South Jersey casinos. Newark, Jersey City and the Meadowlands area, the last place located mostly within Bergen County, continue to claim to be the supreme site for a successful future North Jersey casino.
Three North Jersey Assembly members are co-sponsors of a resolution to introduce a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casinos outside of South Jersey and into the North Jersey counties of Bergen, Essex and Hudson if approved by both the state Legislature and then the voters in a statewide referendum.
The most recent poll focused on expanding gaming beyond Atlantic City, however, found that Garden State residents remain firmly opposed to any move in this direction, with 56 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor.
Gordon, while still expressing tacit support for a Meadowlands area casino bid, noting that it will fit in well with the American Dream Meadowlands project, the Meadowlands Sports Complex and nearby public transportation, continued to take a more macroeconomic approach to North Jersey gaming growth.
“Let’s just say we build a casino in the Meadowlands, and we’re successful in attracting all these people from New York,” Gordon said. “How do we prevent New York from building some flashy casino on the Hudson River waterfront and divert that market to New York? The Meadowlands, ten years from now, could have an Atlantic City problem. I think we need to catch our breath. Casinos are not a panacea for economic growth issues. A far better investment is putting money into infrastructure – roads, bridges, telecommunications – the sort of investments that are going to pay long-term dividends 30 to 40 years from now.”
When asked about a North Jersey casino expansion referendum, Gordon was circumspect.
“I tend to believe that legislators are elected to make tough decisions. If you look at the polls now, I think that the majority of the people don’t want [casino expansion]. What I would support is a much more extensive debate. We just need to stop this scrum. The answer should be the result of careful analysis, not just for the short term, but for the long term.”