mayor & council
Honorable Jay Coffey
A Message from Our Mayor
September / October 2016
In November, a ballot question will allow New Jersey voters the opportunity to decide whether or not gambling should be permitted outside of Atlantic City. Of course, as with all things coming out of Trenton, itâ€™s really not that simple. First, and this may come as a big shock to our elected officials in Trenton, gambling is already permitted outside of Atlantic City. Neighboring states like New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware all have legalized gambling venues. Second, the ballot initiative only allows for gambling SO LONG AS IT TAKES PLACE 72 MILES (as the crow flies) FROM ATLANTIC CITY. Guess how far Monmouth Park is from Atlantic City? About 70 miles. Thatâ€™s right, the legislation might as well read "gambling shall be legal outside of Atlantic City except for Monmouth Park" because that is the obvious intent. Third, the proposed legislation only allows for two casinos to be built and those casinos have to be built in two different counties, neither of which is named. Notwithstanding the fact that neither county is named, news articles have already confirmed that both Jersey City (Hudson) and East Rutherford (Bergen) are the proposed and favored casino sites. By the way, Jersey City and East Rutherford are only 13 miles apart! Fourth, like all things coming out of Trenton, the details on how the money generated by these casinos is going to be distributed are almost impossible to understand and the number of hands in the money pie is probably greater than the number of available slices.
New Jersey's monopoly on the East Coast gambling dollar ended a decade ago and the successful business model for both the racing and casino industries is up and running in each and every one of the states surrounding New Jersey. Simply stated, other states have gaming facilities at racetracks and New Jersey doesnâ€™t. Instead of emulating what these states are doing (smaller, numerous, more conveniently located venues with multi-faceted revenue streams), our state legislators have decided to double down on the business model (Atlantic City's) that isnâ€™t working and they want to do it on a grand scale.
Given Trenton's unparalleled track record for spectacular failures when it comes to spending our money on almost any scale, I think it is now time that we impose the "George Costanza Opposite" rule on our state legislators. In this case, applying the rule --- "if every instinct Trenton has is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right" --- would result in gambling being legalized only in places WITHIN 72 miles of Atlantic City. That would permit gambling at Monmouth Park, a smaller, conveniently located, self-contained venue with a proven record of serving the public's gaming and entertainment needs. One that has plenty of parking, offers its own NJ Transit stop and has beautiful, EXISTING facilities that can easily accommodate casino gaming or slot machines. How about we see if that works first and then expand northward in a controlled, orderly fashion? Or does that make too much sense? At the very least, the 72 mile limitation should be reduced to allow Monmouth Park, Monmouth County, and Central Jersey to benefit from the proposed expansion.
If this legislation were a horse race, Hudson County is Secretariat, Bergen County is Seattle Slew, and Monmouth County is Mr. Ed. The good part about that is Mr. Ed can talk. But nobody in Trenton (with the exception of Declan O'Scanlon who, I must say, has been fighting the good fight on behalf of Oceanport, Monmouth Park, and all the other stakeholders on this issue from the beginning) is going to listen to the rantings of a small town Mayor like me. But they will listen if they hear the voices of the 5900+ residents of Oceanport and residents of surrounding communities who will be impacted if Monmouth Park continues to struggle against out of state competitors.
To that end, I implore you to call or e-mail Senator Joseph Kyrillos, Jr. at (732) 671-3206 or email@example.com, Senator Jennifer Beck at (732) 933-1591 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin at (732) 383-7820 or email@example.com, Assemblyman Declan J. Oâ€™Scanlon at (732) 933-1591 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Assemblywoman Joann Downey at (732) 333-0166 or email@example.com, and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling at (732) 333-0166 or firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them you are going to vote "NO" this November if Monmouth Park is excluded from this legislation and from being able to compete on a level playing field with race tracks in surrounding states. Call or write as often as you like. They need to hear from us. Anybody up for a town bus ride to Trenton? Bring a friend, pack a lunch, and we'll make a day of it. Letâ€™s talk about it at Summer's End!
Honorable Jay Coffey
Mayor, Oceanport Borough, NJ