Our Turn NJ: Manipulative ad campaign promoting northern NJ gaming expansion ballot initiative–I say vote NO

For the excessively manipulative tone of the Our Turn NJ ad campaign alone, I recommend that my northern neighbors vote “no” on this November’s gaming expansion ballot initiative, which seeks to build two new casinos in northern New Jersey.

Instead of objectively presenting all information, Our Turn NJ strongly suggests that voting against building these casinos, is somehow equivalent to “robbing” and “stealing” money right out of gramom’s hands, using a picture of an anguished senior citizen to drive the point home. (“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit here and suffer.”)

According to the website’s main video-commercial, had these two casinos existed since 2006, $15 billion total in revenues could have been raised, with up to $1.8 billion that would have gone to fund critical programs, such as those depended on by low-income seniors and the disabled.

$15 billion total – $1.8 billion to programs = $13.2 billion

That’s $13.2 billion that does not go to these “critical programs.” Divided over the past 11 years, 2006-2016

$13.2 billion / 11 years = $1.2 billion each year

$1.8 billion / 11 years = $164 million each year

$1.2 billion every year in revenue would go to two casinos, while about one seventh of that amount, $164 million, would be shared among every low-income senior and disabled person in the state.

$1.2 billion / $164 million = 7.32

This would only exacerbate the scourge of income inequality, especially considering that these figures are self-reported and likely overly optimistic.

According to the seniors in the video, if you don’t vote for these new casinos:

  • “They [seniors] would be lost.”
  • “I would go broke.”
  • “The seniors would be out on the streets”
  • “Where would they get the money to fund places like this, if it didn’t come from casinos and gaming?” (Gaming is the one and only way to fund these programs? In the entire world?)

In another commercial: “If I didn’t have this program, I would be handicapped myself.” This is the same video that ends with “They took care of us, now it’s our turn to take care of them.”

Instead of overwhelming voters with guilt, Our Turn NJ should be supplying them with answers:

Regarding the $164 million allotted to special programs each year: How much of this is guaranteed, and how much is tied to performance or other metrics, or subject to arbitrary decisions by casino owners?

Regarding the $1.2 billion each year that does not go to critical-programs: According to The Press of Atlantic City, “[N]o more than one-third of the tax revenue annually collected from the new casinos would go toward helping Atlantic City,” and according to NJ.com, “Two percent would go to New Jersey’s struggling horse racing industry and to municipalities and counties where the new casinos are located.”

What about the casino executives? How much do they get?

What is the benefit of this initiative to all of those people listed on the Our Turn NJ’s support page?

Again from The Press of Atlantic City: “Other unknowns include the specific locations of the gambling halls, the tax rate they will pay on their gaming revenue, and who will run the non-profit charged with revitalizing Atlantic City.”

Some things, however, are clear.

Since the locations will be determined by the state legislature only after the initiative passes, proper studies on the impact on surrounding communities (such as land, water, utilities, crime, addiction, suicide, divorce, and bankruptcy) are not possible before November.

Worst of all, by postponing the determination of the locations until after the election, the input of the residents and businesses in and near those ultimately-decided-upon areas can largely be ignored. And why not? By that point, the voters will have already decided on the casinos, and therefore on also giving the legislature the final say on locations.

(And we haven’t even mentioned the fundamental negative of the casino industry, which is to entertain the many by taking terrible advantage of the few.)

Unsurprisingly, according to a study commissioned by an Atlantic City casino and supported by No North Jersey Casinos, expanding gaming into northern New Jersey would cause “Atlantic City’s casino industry [to] contract significantly…”, including the likelihood of casino closures, tens of thousands of lost jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues in expressway tolls, to businesses on the boardwalk, and in state taxes.

Also unsurprisingly, according to New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney, the topmost public official on Our Turn NJ’s support page, gaming in North Jersey is “inevitable” because “competition is going to be in New York shortly.” Also, New Jersey residents are starting to choose gaming options closer to home, in New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland–alluding to the most prominent line in the Our Turn NJ campaign:

New York and Pennsylvania have stolen BILLIONS of our gaming revenue, robbing our seniors of funding for critical programs.

(Emphasis from original.)

It should be noted that it is not a foregone conclusion that this initiative will pass. According to a June Monmouth University poll, most New Jersey seniors are, ironically, against gaming expansion, and overall support and opposition to the idea is tied at 48%. At the time, Steve Sweeney’s reaction was, “I really think [the initiative is] in trouble.”

So if we are to believe the Our Turn NJ campaign, we would not be voting against two casinos, we are instead actively hurting low-income seniors and the disabled. More than that, we are being complicit in a crime against this vulnerable population.

If hiding facts behind such blatant manipulation is the only way Our Turn NJ believes they can get votes, then I am skeptical of what those facts have to say. I recommend voting no on the North Jersey gaming expansion ballot initiative.

Update 9/23: Our Turn NJ suspends media campaign

According to the Press of Atlantic City:

Our Turn NJ announced Thursday it was suspending its paid media campaign, citing poor polling data among the factors.

“The current political climate in New Jersey and voters’ concerns about the lack of details relating to the effort have proved overwhelming,” Paul Fireman and Jeff Gural, supporters of expanding casino gaming beyond Atlantic City, said in a statement. […]

“Although Our Turn NJ signaled they will suspend their media campaign, we will continue to fight any and all efforts to siphon dollars and jobs out of South Jersey,” said Debra P. DiLorenzo, chairwoman of the No North Jersey Casinos Coalition.

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