Election Results, Internet Sunset Problematic For New Jersey Casinos

November 11, 2021
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Even “Saturday Night Live” is making jokes about how a truck driver spent a grand total of $153 on his campaign but still managed to defeat the New Jersey Senate president in the November 2 election.

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Even “Saturday Night Live” is making jokes about how a truck driver spent a grand total of $153 on his campaign, but still managed to defeat the New Jersey Senate president in the November 2 election.

The consequences may not be so funny for New Jersey’s gaming industry, which has lost a powerful ally in ousted Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, with the likelihood of his successor representing North New Jersey.

The cold civil war between North and South Jersey always has been almost palpable, and a shift to a Senate president from North Jersey instead of South Jersey would not be good news for Atlantic City.

Moreover, New Jersey’s undisputed dominance as the nation’s leader in internet gambling could be at risk next year if the 2013 law that spawned online casino gaming in the Garden State is not extended.

The heir apparent to Sweeney as the casinos’ go-to guy in the New Jersey Senate appears to be Democrat Troy Singleton, who represents Burlington County about 51 miles north of Atlantic City.

As for the New Jersey General Assembly, Democratic majority leader Louis Greenwald remains a reliable advocate of gaming interests.

Sweeney’s defeat also may sound the death knell for his political alliance with the most powerful unelected person in New Jersey, insurance magnate George Norcross of Camden, who wanted Sweeney to be elected governor of New Jersey in 2017.

Instead, Democrat Phil Murphy became governor, incurring the wrath of both Norcross and Sweeney.

“George Norcross is still a powerful person,” said Matthew Hale, an associate professor of political science at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.

“Murphy and Norcross have reached a sort of détente because they need each other. They both were hurt on election day, and it seems to me that they will need each other even more now,” Hale said.

A potential threat facing Atlantic City after the election is a renewal of efforts to authorize casinos on the outskirts of New York City in North Jersey.

A referendum to allow two casinos in North Jersey failed in 2016, but the 2023 opening of up to three new casinos in neighboring New York might revive the New Jersey casino expansion campaign from five years ago, according to a gaming lobbyist who requested anonymity.

There also appears to be no love lost between Atlantic City and Murphy, who was re-elected governor by a surprisingly small margin on November 2.

After winning Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City, in 2017 when he was first elected governor, Murphy lost the county this year to Republican Jack Ciattarelli.

“(Murphy) lost all over South Jersey…He truly did nothing for Atlantic City with all his mask mandates and limiting the number of people who could go to restaurants. He is not beloved in South Jersey at all,” said a gambling lobbyist who requested anonymity.

Internet gambling is one topic that will definitely be on the agenda of the next New Jersey legislature because the groundbreaking 2013 law that authorized online casino games will expire in February 2023.

Although it may seem obvious that lawmakers will reauthorize the internet gambling law next year, there could be complications.

Online operators typically based in cities such as Jersey City and Hoboken in North Jersey are grumbling about being required to partner with brick-and-mortar casinos in Atlantic City and may launch a campaign to become untethered.

“The renewal of the law does grant legislators an opportunity to revisit details such as taxation and the intersection between iGaming and iLottery,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University near Atlantic City.

Nevertheless, Bokunewicz said, “I highly doubt, given the competitive edge it gives the industry compared to neighboring states, that the 2013 law legalizing online gaming will be allowed to lapse.”

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