UPDATED 11/09/16 12:34 a.m.
PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey voters on Tuesday rejected a plan to expand expand casino gambling to the northern part of the state.
Ballot question 1, which asked whether to authorize the construction of two new casinos in separate counties in the northern part of the state near New York City, was soundly defeated.
The result was a welcome reprieve for Atlantic City, where some gambling and business executives feared new in-state competition could have led to the closure of three to five of the city’s remaining seven casinos.
The question cannot be put back before voters for at least two years, but some legislators are already considering a legally questionable plan to add slot machines to racetracks at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford and Monmouth Park in Oceanport as soon as next year by classifying them as “video lottery terminals” and presenting them as a product of the already-legal state lottery.
The ballot question didn’t specify where the casinos would be built, but proposals had been floated for the Meadowlands, Jersey City and Newark. Jeff Gural, who operates the Meadowlands track, has partnered with Hard Rock International for a casino there.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” said Gural, who stopped spending money in support of the ballot question in September when it became clear it would not pass. “The opposition very cleverly tied this issue to the state government in Trenton when everyone is expressing disgust with politics. That made it virtually impossible for us to win.”
Meanwhile, the question of creating a so-called constitutional “lockbox” was viewed as a no-brainer by most lawmakers, but Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno came out opposed to the question recently.
She argues a yes vote amounts to a rubber stamp on $12 billion in state borrowing over eight years. The borrowing is part of a deal reached between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature to raise the gas tax by 23 cents, cut other taxes and pay for transportation.
The ballot question did not mention the borrowing, which instead is contained in the legislation Christie signed into law.
The issue had support from the Democratic leaders of the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie, but Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and a New Jersey radio station are leading a campaign to defeat the question, hoping to capitalize on voter anger over a recent 23-cent hike in the gas tax.
The increase in the state’s gas tax took effect last week. It came about after the state ran out of money to pay for transportation projects. The boost from 14.5 cents per gallon to 37.5 cents marks the first time the gas tax has been raised since 1988.
Voters will also decide who will serve their districts in the House of Representatives and who will serve in local and county offices.
The most closely watched contests include northern New Jersey’s 5th District, where the Associated Press incumbent called the race for Democrat Josh Gottheimer over Republican Scott incumbent Garrett.
Democrats perennially predicted an upset in the district, but had never pulled it off. They had been hopeful Garrett’s opposition to gay marriage and the controversy over reports he declined to contribute to a national Republican committee because it backed gay candidates would put Gottheimer over the top.
Garrett said it is gay marriage he opposes and that anyone has the right to run for office.
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