Yonkers, Aqueduct, Meadowlands: Who Gets The Next Casino License?

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Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct could wind up as full-fledged casinos before such a facility winds up at a North Jersey site such as the Meadowlands, panelists at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City suggested on Thursday.

Phil Juliano, chief marketing officer for the Rhode Island-based Twin River Management Group and a native of Atlantic City, said that once a moratorium on the addition of up to three new casinos in the New York City region is listed after 2022, the most practical choice for state officials would be to allow Empire City racino at Yonkers and Resorts World racino at Aqueduct to offer live-dealer table games.

“That’s the big market, and that seems like the obvious thing,” said Juliano. “Then if that happens in New York, how does New Jersey respond?”

Both Yonkers – which was bought by MGM Resorts earlier this year for $850 mm – and Aqueduct – owned by Malaysian gaming giant Genting – will certainly lobby aggressively to join four upstate commercial casinos that are expected to take their first sports bets this summer now that state officials approved final regulations for those four facilities this week.

Meanwhile, Resorts Atlantic City casino chief executive officer Mark Giannantonio said that New Jerseyans already have shown overwhelming objection to the idea of ending the city’s four-decade statewide monopoly on casinos. He was referring to a 2016 referendum on the option of up to two casinos in North Jersey that produced a “no” vote of nearly 80%.

“I think New Jersey residents like the fact that gambling is in Atlantic City, as a destination,” Giannantonio said. “We don’t give the residents enough credit for their recognizing what an impact would be inflicted on the city. I think if [a referendum]came up again, it probably would lose to the same extent.”

Not even the Meadowlands?

Asked after the conclusion of the panel whether a vote specifically on a casino for the Meadowlands Sports Complex would be more worrisome, Giannantonio told US Bets, “I don’t think so. There’s a lot of opposition. They’d vote it down. They don’t mind the drive from North Jersey as much as maybe people think.”

But if Yonkers Raceway – less than a half hour from central Bergen County, NJ – became a full-fledged casino, might that change the minds of voters?

“At least that’s in another state, and we can’t control that,” Giannantonio said.

Executives at Yonkers Raceway and Resorts help fund the referendum opposition group Trenton’s Bad Bet, which spent millions on advertising linking the ballot question to unpopular state lawmakers.

A fourth casino is under development in Philadelphia, and Giannantonio noted that it is located “where there is a lot of traffic, so the three operators in that city would all be impacted to some degree.

As for Resorts, Giannantonio suggested that whatever damage from Philadelphia-area casinos has been done is already done.

“It’s hard to lose the same customer twice,” Giannantonio said.

As far as talk about Showboat – which like Resorts lies along the Boardwalk – reopening as a casino – Giannantonio replied. “I’m not sure that’s a smart idea. That would be a net negative.”

The panel was titled “The Mid-Atlantic Battleground,” referring to the fact that there are now 32 casinos within 150 miles of Philadelphia. Spectrum Gaming Group executive vice president Joseph Weinert, the moderator, showed the audience a map of the region to demonstrate North Jersey as “the obvious untapped market.”

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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