MEADOWLANDS, N.J. (PIX11) – This year, four casinos in Atlantic City have closed or will close before the autumn. In the wake of those closures in South Jersey, there’s yet a new proposal to open a casino much closer to New York City.
But with a handful of casinos within a 90-minute drive of the city already in existence, would a new New York metro area casino oversaturate the market? And would lawmakers greenlight the venue at all? Some north Jersey business leaders are at least hoping for the chance to have those questions seriously considered.
“This is like the next in a continuing development piece that rounds out the Meadowlands sports entertainment complex,” said Jim Kirkos, CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce.
He unveiled a major proposal, called a vision plan, on Tuesday for the construction of multiple buildings at the Carlstadt, New Jersey, complex that features MetLife Stadium at its center. The new proposal calls for a casino hotel to be built, along with accompanying parking garages, next to the new Meadowlands grandstand at its horse racing track.
The proposal, however, comes five weeks after Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop officially confirmed that a mega casino, complete with a 90 story hotel and condominium tower, is in the works along his city’s waterfront.
The biggest difference between the Jersey City proposal and the one put forward by the Meadowlands is that Jersey City already has an experienced developer signed on to the project. Paul Fireman is the founder of the Reebok athletic wear company, as well as creator of the world class Liberty National golf course, which is situated right next to the Jersey City casino site.
Megastar Justin Timberlake hits the links regularly at Liberty National. It’s a reminder of the potential star power a casino and entertainment complex could bring to that city, which faces the Manhattan skyline.
“This is certainly not about whether it should be the Meadowlands or Jersey City,” Kirkos told PIX11 News. But he added, “If there’s an expansion of gaming outside of Atlantic City, the Meadowlands should be the first place.”
The reason for that, he said, was that the main point of the Meadowlands proposal is not the casino. The plan also features a monorail system that would connect the casino hotel, parking garages and another proposed Meadowlands hotel and convention center that would be built between the Izod Center arena and the American Dream entertainment complex there.
However, American Dream, one of New Jersey’s largest buildings, has been sitting, empty and unfinished, for nearly a decade. That begs the question of whether or not an adjacent casino hotel could be successful, as well.
One answer could be seen in front of Grand Central Terminal at midday. That’s when the hourly luxury coach to the casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, in Queens, arrives to pick up and drop off gamblers. At 1:00 P.M, when PIX11 caught up with the bus, it was empty.
However, the Resorts World venue is profitable, and in a PIX11 unscientific survey, every New Yorker polled said they would be open to the idea of gambling right across the Hudson.
“Jersey City, it’s a PATH train ride,” said Elliot Paulino, who added that he has relatives who live there. “I don’t see it as being too far.”
Brooklyn resident Jacob Goldstein told PIX11 News, “I’d have to see about transportation, cost, amenities, then sit down and see what’s good out there.”
Linda Manfredi is the founder of the 9/11 charity, the Firefighter Joseph Maffeo Foundation. It’s named after her brother, who lost his life in the Twin Towers. The foundation holds an annual casino night fundraiser, and Manfredi said she would not only patronize a North Jersey casino if one were built, she’d even consider holding her annual fundraiser at one.
“Having the event at a casino would probably, I think, it might change the dynamics,” said Manfredi, “but I think it might be something to look into.” She added that the greatest incentive to hold a casino night fundraiser at an actual New Jersey casino would be the willingness of the facility to donate space and services.
“To also serve the community,” she said.
In order for any casino to be built in New Jersey outside of Atlantic City, the state constitution would have to be amended. Gov. Chris Christie has said that he would be willing to consider allowing that process to begin. However, that is not an endorsement of the change in any way. In other words, a North Jersey casino could be years away, if it happens at all.