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Big M Casino Plans Unveiled

Published: June 3, 2015 2:49 pm ET

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Hard Rock International, owner of one of the world’s most iconic and recognized brands, announced today its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The proposed entertainment destination would be ideally situated in northern New Jersey and is projected to generate $400 million of new tax revenues a year.

“With its close proximity to an international airport, the new casino would be designed to attract visitors from not only the 14 million adults in northern New Jersey and New York City, but also international travellers, making it a premier entertainment destination,” said Jim Allen, the chairman of Hard Rock International. “The significant tax revenue brought into New Jersey could go directly to aid in the development and reconstruction of Atlantic City’s casino and hotel industry.”

Reports show a casino in northern New Jersey would help draw visitors from other states, creating competition with New York and Pennsylvania, who have taken more than $13 billion in revenue from New Jersey in the past eight years since they’ve expanded their gaming options.

“We’re thrilled to bring this great offering to the New Meadowlands Racetrack,” said Jeff Gural, the chairman of New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC. “With its expertise in gaming, hotels, restaurants, live events, entertainment, and retail offerings, Hard Rock International is the ideal partner for New Meadowlands Racetrack; bringing the globally recognized brand to the racetrack elevates excitement surrounding the project.”

The Hard Rock Casino will feature 5,000 slot machines and 200 gaming tables. The project will also feature 10 restaurants and four bars; a multi-purpose Hard Rock Live showroom; New Jersey Music Hall of Fame; and ‘The Vault,’ a music memorabilia museum expertly curated by Hard Rock – owners of the world’s largest music memorabilia collection.

The entertainment destination will also offer retail shops and a six-storey parking garage conveniently located just steps away from the casino grounds.

Gural reiterated his continuing commitment to harness racing as part of the future Hard Rock plans.

“I’m a horse guy and that’s what brought me here,” he said. “In my heart, this is good for the state of New Jersey. We are dedicated to making this work for the entire state of New Jersey, we certainly would offer jobs to people who lost their jobs in Atlantic City.”

He also cited the importance of the 13,000 New Jersey citizens who make their living in the equine business, and specifically about half of those who make their living through horse racing.

Gural expressed his optimism that the annual tax revenue to the state would exceed Hard Rock’s $400 million projections, especially in the first few years when other New Jersey competition may be limited initially.

Attendance was heavy from dozens of state political leaders, business executives and union representatives, who support the proposed plan and the jobs and economic engine it would provide for the region. State Senator Paul Sarlo acknowledged the political challenges at hand and pledged to “balance competing interests with all our colleagues.”

Central to the proposal, and delineated on a graphic presentation shown to attendees, is a “minimum $300 billion investment in Atlantic City (infrastructure) via tax exempt bonds.”

Estimates call for creation of about 2,360 construction jobs and 5,000 ongoing jobs.

In a question and answer session at the close of prepared presentations, the issue of overcoming the constitutional amendment that states that no casinos are allowed to operate outside Atlantic City was addressed.

Current legislative action is focused on an enabling referendum that would amend the constitution to allow for casinos outside Atlantic City, which is located about 125 miles south of the Meadowlands. At present, there is no consensus among political leaders on whether the referendum should run this fall, when there will likely be lower turnout than expected in the presidential election in 2016, or to run it next fall, when turnout will be higher, but costs to reach voters to educate them about the issue will be more expensive.

Both Allen and Gural favour a 2015 referendum and believe that with voter approval, they could have the first phase of the project ready in the summer or early fall of 2016. Gural said research on the possible referendum indicates the measure would be well received this fall and that costs to educate voters on the issue would be in the range of $10 to 20 million.

Also at issue is the question of how many casinos will be allowed, with some lawmakers favouring one, and some up to three, with consideration also given to Monmouth Park, a Thoroughbred track along the New Jersey shore.

(With files from Hard Rock International and Harness Racing Communications)


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