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Archive for the ‘The Meadowlands’ Category

Alright, so we have been waiting to hear from Governor Christie’s task force studying the gaming issue ( set to report this week assuming it is on sked ), and now we have Democrats calling for a “Gaming Summit” to figure out what to do. Basically, everyone is still wringing their hands trying to determine the best way to balance the competing interests of the Atlantic City Casinos and the Horse Racing Industry.

The race tracks want to bring in slots and VLT’s to attract new customers, but the casinos have been saying “no” to that for years.

Here is my question…when are the casinos gonna stop trying to stifle competition and simply make a better product?? I mean seriously, the amount of money they spend on lobbyists and other efforts to engineer a New Jersey that is devoid of anything that might harm their bottom line is in the long run, truly counter-productive. That money would be better spent reinvested in their casinos. Shouldn’t they just accept that we live in a changing world and work instead at making AC such an awesome place to visit that people wanna come there no matter what???

Don’t get me wrong. I love Atlantic City. Anytime I spend 24-hours there I can assure you that it is packed with lots-o-fun. But it could be better. And a coupla years ago I did actually have a bit of an uncomfortable moment when I wandered off the boardwalk to hit the nearby liquor store ( not quite as scary as my recent visit to “The Liquor Barn” just outside Indianapolis, but that’s a whole other story ). If there was a slight makeover to the surrounding area I think people would feel better moving around off the grid which would be good for the surrounding businesses as well as the casinos ( Um, Yes. I realize none of what I am saying here is remotely original or particularly insightful  ).

Now, let’s talk about the ponies. The bottom line is tastes are changing. Nobody young goes to the track anymore ( at least at the Meadowlands ), and any guy who still does is a bit of a throw-back. I bet he smokes Pall Mall cigarettes. And he probably still gets a little misty-eyed when he hears Gordon Lightfoot tunes…particularly that one about the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald. That guy is a relic, folks. The race tracks ( in which NJ is heavily invested ) need some new entertainment. And not necessarily of the untoward variety…but different types of gambling options – tables, slots and sports wagering.

Ok, there. I’ve said my piece. Now who wants to meet me in AC this weekend?

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It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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I gotta give the Christie Administration a little credit here. They have been awfully tight-lipped about which way the guv is leaning when it comes to gaming.

That is perhaps because he has not yet made up his mind. And as we know, it’s a very tricky issue to wade into…even for a Governor who has vowed to take on the state’s most vexing problems. Here is what I have been able to piece together through several conversations with various interest holders.

Let me begin by saying that having spent 10 years in the Newark bureau for NJN News,  I have probably done more stories on the Sports and Exposition Authority than anyone in the history of television news. Naturally, the guys up there favor the introduction of VLT’s and slots to compliment and possibly even subsidize horse racing. One doesn’t need a PHD in the obvious to conclude – like the transition reports do – that the “model for horse racing is broken.”

The state subsidizes the purses because they are legislatively required to do so…but that amounts to a multi-million loss for the NJSEA each year.

With news that Related Companies may be interested in rescuing Xanadu I was trying to determine if a new developer’s agreement would include provisions for scooping up gambling proceeds at the Meadowlands. Turns out, it doesn’t have to. Under the terms of the previous agreement between NJSEA and Colony there is a right of first refusal for the investors when it comes to opening a “racino.” In other words, if slots or even table games were ever greenlit at the Meadowlands, whoever runs Xanadu gets first crack at building the hotel that would house them. That language would stay in any new agreement signed by Related.

So would that make sense for NJ? Well, the folks I talked to who represent AC don’t think so. In fact, they are going to go ballistic of Christie signs off on racinos. One person even claims the guv signed a pledge that he would never approve gambling outside AC.

But someone also described it this way, “the moat around AC has not worked.” The popular money is on Christie using the threat of opening up racinos in East Rutherford and Monmouth Park to force major reforms in Atlantic City. Someone from AC described their city as “too many separate fiefdoms” that don’t work together for the greater good. Having a government plagued with legal problems certainly has not helped. And the streets away from the boardwalk can still sometimes be a tad scary.

So, by appointing an advisory commission Christie has bought himself a few months to consider the competing options. Hopefully this isn’t just another excuse to punt as the previous regime’s commission on horse racing sometimes appeared to be doing.

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Do you remember those adds for Jurrassic Park, the 1995 film? It billed the upcoming CGI dinosaur epic as ‘265 Million Years In The Making.’

Well, one could fairly claim that the rail link to The Meadowlands was at least 30 years in the making. The Original Giants stadium was built onsite in 1976. Plans for a link were on the table then…but of course, it didn’t happen until yesterday.

But I don’t want to get too carried away with cynism and bury the lead which is actually very important news. Starting july 26, train service will be availble into the The Meadowlands Sports Complex, dropping passengers off in front of the new football stadium for the Jets and Giants scheduled to open in 2010.

Anyhoo…the train will come from points such as Hoboken and NYC, stop at the ( Until now not very functional ) Lautenberg station at Secaucus Junction and continue on to the final stop. For now it will only run to events larger than 50,000 people. But that can increase as demand does. For example the fate of the Xanadu ( or xana-don’t as some critics have called it ) remains uncertain. But if that ever opens trains would become more frequent. they can carry 10-12,000 passengers each hour.

But lemme go back to the criticism again for just a moment. If this had been done earlier it probably would have helped spur other development in the surrounding area. Many projects have failed. And one of the criticisms of the sports complex is that it is a bit isolated – only reachable by car or bus. Well, now that has changed.

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