On Election Day, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly turned thumbs down on a state Constitutional amendment question that would have allowed casino gaming to expand outside of Atlantic City.

There had been discussions about two casinos, one in the Meadowlands and the other in Jersey City or Newark, but those in favor of the idea never specified where they would be located.

Efforts to defeat the proposal were led by Trenton’s Bad Bet, a group comprising Garden state labor unions, businesses, community leaders, Atlantic City casino officials and casino reps from New York.

Bill Cortese, the executive director of Trenton’s Bad Bet, pointed out close to 80 percent of voters were against the idea of casino expansion.

“People saw a track record coming out of Trenton of projects and schemes that haven’t panned out and ultimately taxpayers have been left holding the bag. Casino expansion was another one of those ideas, and I think that’s why you saw the numbers overwhelmingly come out the way they did,” he said.

He said New Jerseyans have become wary about pie-in-the-sky grandiose ideas that never pan out.

“Developers come in, people come in, they make big promises about revenues, they make big promises about job creation, those don’t happen and taxpayers are left holding the bag,” he said.

Cortese noted similar kinds of revenue-generating promises were made more than a decade ago when the idea for the Xanadu entertainment and retail complex was first announced for the Meadowlands.

The project, now called American Dream, has never been completed and developers are still trying to raise enough money to complete it after the state kicked in more than $100 million in funding and tax breaks when it was first unveiled.

Cortese said supporters of casino expansion can make another push to have the issue revisited in two years, but predicted their efforts won’t go anywhere.

“I think people spoke loud and clear that Atlantic City should continue to be the place for casinos in New Jersey,” he said. “What happens two years from now we’re not sure. But certainly I think it makes it very difficult for anybody who’s trying to push this through again.”

He also noted there are opportunities for Atlantic City to diversify and expand other industries besides gambling, and we will no doubt see those efforts move forward in the coming months.

So why did ads continue to run on radio and TV, even after it became clear the amendment would be defeated?

We wanted to make sure we were not going to leave anything to chance. We wanted to make sure when people walked into that voting booth they were educated and they were informed about the dangers casino expansion would pose to New Jersey residents and taxpayers,” he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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