Friday, August 29, 2014

The Meadowlands – Sleeping Giant or Big Bandaid?

Earlier this week I read an article in the Pennsylvania Online Gambling News by Robert DellaFave (see article here) introducing the idea that a casino at the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey, a stone’s throw from the George Washington Bridge, would sink the Atlantic City gambling monopoly once and for all. He also surmised that gambling at the Meadowlands would have a significant impact on Pennsylvania casinos, notably the Sands. What was beyond the scope of his article, but a serious threat as well, is the blow a Meadowlands casino would visit upon the proposed fledgling New York casinos (see my tweet below).

@US_OnlinePoker Not only will a Meadowlands casino be curtains for much of PAs traffic it will spell DOOM for 3/4 of NY's proposed ones.

By now just about every gambler in the northeast is aware that New York State is on the verge of approving and licensing up to four full scale casinos for NY. Proposals have been filed and some 17 companies are vying for these limited spots. Public hearings are scheduled around the state in September with one close by in Poughkeepsie, NY on 9/23/14. The legislation calls for new casinos in the Albany, Finger Lakes, and Lower Hudson Valley regions. One region can get as many as two casinos, while the others get one each.

The general consensus is that the Lower Hudson region (Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties) will get two casinos due to its proximity to New York City. One of the proposed locales is in Tuxedo, NY, 40 miles from the Big Apple. 

And then along comes the Meadowlands! The formerly swampy, marshy, expanse is a northern New Jersey area that many New Yorkers embrace as their own. The Meadowlands is home to the Meadowlands harness racing track obviously, but also home to MetLife Stadium, the home of, and I’m going to say this all in capital letters, THE NEW YORK JETS AND THE NEW YORK GIANTS. 

The Meadowlands might as well be in New York. It is an easy drive from all parts of the city and Long Island (if getting off the Island at any time can be called easy), it’s a short ride from the suburbs of the city, and connects easily to all major roads out of New York. Paying the toll on the GW Bridge is an annoyance and NY gamblers will have to take that into account when they calculate the rake but, the bottom line is that New Yorkers will go to the Meadowlands, and they will go in droves.

In fact, if a casino is built at the Meadowlands, New Yorkers will choose to go there rather than head north even if it’s only 40 miles north.

There are so many expressions that come to mind when thinking about the consequences a Meadowlands casino will wreak upon New York casinos – “dead in the water,” “doomed to failure,” "won’t get off the ground,” and simply, “curtains.”

I wrote last week about what it takes to survive in the casino business and I used Las Vegas’ uncanny ability to constantly reinvent itself as the only way to make it. Adapting to new situations and new circumstances has to be part of the business plan. Stale ideas, like Atlantic City, are going to fail in the end. 

Building a casino at the Meadowlands is New Jersey’s way of getting into the adaptation game. It’s a stealthy move, a bold move, a strategic move! It’s a move that will put a huge dent in Pennsylvania’s profits, as Robert DellaFave states. It’s also a move that will cripple New York’s efforts before they even get off the ground.

In my estimation the only variable still to be locked in is timing! A Meadowlands casino will be a success given the huge urban populations it will draw from. Getting a foot in the door before New York casinos have even settled in will give New Jersey a huge advantage that they can build upon. For me the question is not if a casino should be put in the Meadowlands, it’s when? The sooner, the better.

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