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Casino expansion would devastate A.C., area economy, says Debra DiLorenzo

Casino expansion would devastate A.C., area economy, says Debra DiLorenzo

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As the chairwoman of the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition, I take issue with many of the points in Jeffrey Gural's Sept. 13 guest commentary, "Revitalizing A.C. requires gaming expansion."

Atlantic City is the second largest gaming destination in the country next to Las Vegas. The city has seven generally thriving casinos that employ thousands of people. Revenues are on the rise.

In fact, the Atlantic City casino industry boosted profits by more than 20 percent in the first half of 2016. Profits are up at six Atlantic City casinos - four of them by double digits.

Operators in Atlantic City have been rebuilding their businesses and diversifying their offerings. And they're continuing to reinvent themselves.

They've grown their convention space and have put an increased focus on better dining options, outdoor entertainment venues, shopping and other luxury amenities. Investments beyond the casino floor are happening every day.

But that progress will be thwarted by expansion of casino gambling in North Jersey.

The answer to Atlantic City's fiscal problems is not to cannibalize the existing casinos by oversaturating the market.

But that's just what Gural is advocating. He erroneously cites that this referendum would generate $500 million a year in tax revenue and claims $200 million of that would go toward revitalizing Atlantic City.

But where do those numbers come from? The state Legislature neglected to set the tax rate for the two new proposed casinos, so how can we estimate revenue when figures being floated in Trenton range from a 15 percent tax rate to a 60 percent rate?

And how can we guarantee these funds would even be appropriated as promised? Gural's self-serving support of this so called panacea for Atlantic City is folly.

The No North Jersey Casinos Coalition is working hard every day with its sister coalition, Trenton's Bad Bet, to oppose the public question seeking to expand gaming to North Jersey.

We are doing so by educating the electorate on the quantified devastating economic impact this constitutional amendment could cause the state: gaming revenue declines of $691 million to $1.4 billion, three to five additional casinos closing, 23,000 to 30,000 jobs lost throughout the region, lost regional and state economic output of $1.5 billion to $2 billion, and loss of $100 million in spending on Atlantic City's Boardwalk.

How does expanding gaming to North Jersey help our state with these results? It doesn't! We urge New Jersey to vote no on Question One.

Debra P. DiLorenzo is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey and chairwoman of the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition.

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