New Jersey voters reject casinos outside Atlantic City, but OK gas-tax referendum

Voters cast their ballots at voting machines at Cheyenne High School on Election Day on November 8, 2016 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Voters cast their ballots at voting machines at Cheyenne High School on Election Day on November 8, 2016 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey voters have rejected an attempt to allow casinos at two locations in northern New Jersey, and in another Election Day ballot, agreed to require every penny of the state’s gas tax be dedicated to transportation funding.

Casino rejection

The defeat means casino gambling will remain legal only in Atlantic City, where voters approved it in 1976. The question cannot be placed on the ballot again for two years.

The defeat was expected after expansion backers ended a $10 million ad campaign believing that voters were opposed.

It also comes as Atlantic City’s casino industry shrinks, thanks in part to the opening of casinos in neighboring states. Five of the city’s 12 casinos closed since 2014. The Trump Taj Mahal closed last month.

The referendum didn’t specify where the casinos would go. Proposals were floated for the Meadowlands Racetrack, in Jersey City, and Newark.

A group including New York casinos spent $11.3 million against expansion.

Gas tax approval

Tuesday’s vote was a blow to Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who rallied against the referendum to protest a 23-cent increase in the tax.

Guadagno issued a statement saying perhaps opponents did not reach enough people or make enough noise.

The question asked whether all the money from the state’s recent 23-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase should go to transportation projects.

Guadagno and radio station New Jersey 101.5 FM had argued that defeating the referendum would force lawmakers and Republican Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider the gas tax hike and scrap plans to borrow $12 billion over eight years.