Key local lawmakers and construction union leaders gathered last month at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford to announce details of a grand plan for North Jersey’s first casino in partnership with Hard Rock International.
The Hard Rock Casino at Meadowlands Racetrack would be a $1 billion casino and entertainment complex adjacent to the North Jersey track’s new grandstand, and would offer 500 slot machines, 200 table games, 10 restaurants, four bars, a multi-purpose Hard Rock Live showroom, and a lineup of music memorabilia from the world’s largest collection of iconic rock artifacts.
The grand vision was laid out by Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen and Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gural, who has already invested more than $100 million into improvements at the track, including the recently completed $85 million grandstand which features sports bars overlooking the racetrack and a rooftop lounge with killer views of Manhattan. Hard Rock contributed a 16 percent equity stake to that project.
“This is not just a legendary day for our brand, but a tremendous opportunity for the state of New Jersey,” said Allen, a South Jersey native and still a resident of the state (as well as Florida, where Hard Rock is headquartered). He said the Hard Rock Meadowlands plan “is about maximizing the potential for the state of New Jersey… It’s about how we can grow the tax base, create more jobs and create more opportunities here in the state of New Jersey.”
If approved, Allen said, the first phase of the new casino could be open by summer or fall of 2016.
To become reality, of course, the casino would require an amendment to the New Jersey state constitution, which restricts casinos to Atlantic City. Allen, Gural and the assembled North Jersey lawmakers all stressed that 2015 is the year to get it done. To get the issue on this November’s election ballot, both chambers would have to pass a constitutional amendment referendum bill by two-thirds margins by August 1.
The lawmakers and Gural stressed that a statewide vote this year is essential, because the issue would be lost amid the din of campaigning in next year’s presidential contest. Gural went as far as to say if the issue fails this year, lawmakers should wait until 2017 to focus the full attention of the voters on the potential benefits of a North Jersey casino.
Two weeks earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on a radio talk show that he is now in favor of a northern casino.