ATLANTIC CITY – More than 1,000 supporters filled the Adrian Phillips Ballroom inside historic Boardwalk Hall Oct. 27 to share their feelings on statewide ballot Question 1 which, if passed, would allow two casinos to be built in North Jersey.
“We cannot just say no; we have to say ‘hell no’ to any casinos in North Jersey,” said Bill Cortese of Jersey City who heads Trenton’s Bad Bet, a campaign urging voters to defeat the question. “We can’t defeat this – we have to make this a mandate so that the message is loud and clear; we have to keep gaming where it belongs.”
The sentiments were echoed by each of the speakers as they stepped to the microphone including Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian.
“We can disagree on the Cubs and the Indians, we can disagree on Donald and Hillary, but what we can agree on is voting down Question 1 on the November 8 ballot.”
Harry Hurley, radio host and political columnist for The Current and The Gazette newspapers, emceed the hour-long program. A succession of people took their turn energizing the crowd and explaining how the expansion of gaming into northern New Jersey would destroy the local economy on many levels.
Nick Moles, general counsel for Resorts Casino, said proponents of North Jersey casinos never completed an economic impact study on what two new casinos in the state would do to Atlantic City.
“Resorts did its own study and if two casinos open in North Jersey we could see the loss of 20,000 to 30,000 jobs and a dramatic increase in the number of foreclosures,” said Moles. “Atlantic City has right-sized itself and maybe there is not enough for 12 casinos, but there is surely enough for seven or eight casinos.”
The attorney said Resorts has invested more than $110 million since 2010 in its hotel and casino and plans to do more. He added that once the threat of the North Jersey casinos is gone, property owners here will be more willing to invest into their casinos and hotels.
Assemblyman Chris Brown, District 2 Republican and an outspoken opponent of the referendum, said it is unconscionable to take gaming outside of Atlantic City while the region is still adjusting to economic changes and working to become a non-gaming destination with beaches that has gambling.
Bob McDevitt of Unite HERE Local 54 hospitality workers union, said his members just want an opportunity to work.
All of the politicians had a say, but Ruth Ann Joyce made it an event that everyone could relate to.
Joyce is a laid-off, day-one employee of Showboat Casino, as is her husband. They lived in Gloucester County before moving to Hammonton.
“We both had jobs that we loved; lucrative jobs in the hospitality industry with great benefits that allowed us to own a lovely home and put our sons through college. We just wanted the opportunity to work and to provide for our families,” said Joyce.
She spoke of her co-workers saying, “We are the Sunday school teachers, the coaches, the PTO members, the volunteers at the church; we are a big part of the communities where we live.”
Joyce said when the jobs disappear, so do the people who were once a part of the community and are forced to leave for employment elsewhere or because they can no longer afford their homes.
Hurley, Brown and others challenged those who attended to not only vote no on Question 1, but to also reach out and tell 10 friends the reasons they should be voting to defeat the expansion of gaming outside of Atlantic City.