November 7, 2016

New York Outguns New Jersey in Casino Expansion Campaign

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The podium of the No North Jersey Casino rally on Thursday, after the rally ended,

The campaign to oppose the expansion of casino gaming in the north of New Jersey was entirely funded by New York-based people and organizations, data analyzed by Route 40 shows.

Even though a small chunk of the campaign’s funding came from an individual and company with ties to Atlantic City’s Resorts, the data suggests that it was New York interests that felt most threatened by the possible arrival of casinos to the north of New Jersey.

You can download – for a small fee – here our full electronic database of expenses and contributions for both sides of the Public Question #1 campaigns.

The Trenton’s Bad Bet campaign – which raised about $14.5 million in total – received $9 million from Genting Group, a Malaysian company that operates the Resorts World Casino NYC. A further $3.5 million came from Yonkers Racing, which operates the Empire City Casino, and Empire Resorts which operates the Monticello Raceway, according to data obtained from filings made to date with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

A final $2 million came from the people and businesses behind Resorts in Atlantic City. Resorts’ owner Morris Bailey, via his wife Paulette and his company JEMB Resorts, put cash in from New York addresses, the data showed.

Resorts – at the northern end of the Atlantic City boardwalk and closest to the now-shuttered Trump Taj Mahal, the recently reopened Showboat and the soon-to-reopen Revel AKA TEN – has been struggling more than Atlantic City’s other casinos amid a several-year downturn brought on by increased competition from neighboring states.

Resorts also directly spent money opposing the expansion of gaming in the north of the state. Via its holding company DGMB Casino, Resorts’ spending went to various direct mailing and signage companies including one Texas-based business called ‘Dirt Cheap Signs’, the filings show. A lawyer for Resorts did not immediately respond to a message.

Two New York-based hotel workers’ unions also spent thousands of dollars buying radio and television airtime and producing ads against the expansion of gaming in New Jersey, the data show. One of the unions was Unite Here’s Local 6, the other was the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

On the other side, the campaign to support extending gambling in the north of New Jersey was funded by WA Residential Urban Renewal Co and New Meadowlands Racetrack and fronted by businessmen Jeff Gural and Paul Fireman. Dubbed Our Turn NJ, it raised just shy of $10 million. The data show the campaign curtailed its spending after deciding to end its advertising in September, when polls showed there was a lack of support for gaming expansion. The campaign has even been reimbursed for some of its spending on air time, the filings show.

ELEC last week said spending related to the expansion of casino gaming set an all-time record for ballot-question campaigns, and dwarfed the $5.6 million inflation-adjusted amount spent to pass the original gaming referendum in 1976.

Separate to spending on campaigns to persuade voters one way or the other, there was also a significant amount of lobbying reported by various companies and entities in the run up to the question being put on the ballot.

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