Newark Developer Announces Its Plan for One of Two North Jersey Casinos


North Jersey casino rallies have been held in Jersey City, East Rutherford, and Newark.

A third proposed site for one of the two possible North Jersey casinos emerged this week: Newark.

The Berger Organization, a Newark-based real estate group, released its development proposal for a North Jersey casino.

While discussing his plans in an interview, the chairman of the organization gave opinions on the upcoming casino referendum and the long term chances for casino gambling in the verge of New York City.

This was not the first time Newark has signaled its interest in one of the casinos. In 2015, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka held a rally to tout the city’s interest. This is the first time a respected Newark developer has stepped forward with a plan, so the Berger Organization’s plan should be considered.

The Berger Organization Proposal

The Berger Organization owns several properties in Newark. The most recognizable of those properties is the Robert Treat Hotel. Miles Berger, the chairman of the Berger Organization, is proposing to build a casino on land the group owns next to the Broad Street New Jersey Transit.

Along with land from the former Newark Bears baseball stadium site, the Berger Organization would build an integrated resort-casino in Newark. Miles Berger describes the project as a centerpiece of the city, as well as a source of rejuvenation for Newark.

Tremendous Boost to the City

Berger said, “Newark being the largest city in the state and as well-located as it is, should certainly be one of the locations for a casino when the election is decided. It would be a tremendous boost to the city and certainly a major boost to the neighborhood.”

Previously, interests in Jersey City and East Rutherford discussed their plans for a North Jersey casino, which would be the first New Jersey brick-and-mortar casinos outside of Atlantic CIty.

Partnering with an AC Casino

One important part of the casino initiative is that Atlantic City casinos get the first crack at development. As the November referendum is written, current holders of gaming licenses have 6 months in order to make a proposal for a North Jersey casino involving at least a $1 billion investment. That means the 8 Atlantic City casinos and Monmouth Park each have a right of first refusal.

If six months pass and 2 qualifying proposals are not made, then outside developers will be given the right to make proposals. Miles Berger says he is talking to Atlantic City casino operators about a partnership, which would allow the Newark casino proposal to be one of the first — and perhaps only realistic — development plans to be submitted.

Of course, current polls show that the November 8 referendum is likely to be defeated. One September Fairleigh Dickinson poll showed the split 57% “against” and 35% “for”. If that is the case, then all of the North Jersey development plans would seem to be irrelevent.

“A Two-Year Window”

Miles Berger, on the other hand, thinks that a loss on the referendum is no final defeat. In fact, the Newark developer seems to suggest that a losing vote would give the various developers the time they need to fine-tune their proposals.

While the Berger Organization obviously would prefer to see the November initiative succeed, Berger predicts it would not be the end. He said of the casino development plan, “It was moving pretty quickly several months ago, but the outlook does not look bright right now. There is no rush here; this could give us a two-year window before it could come back on as a referendum.

Post-Election Update

The Berger Organization’s plans were for naught, because the residents of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the North Jersey casino plan. Atlantic City receives a 2-year reprieve at the very least, while possible gaming developers in the Newark, Jersey City, and Meadowlands areas have two years to devise a new proposed North Jersey gaming bill.

The first time the issue can appear on a statewide ballot again in 2018. The early speculation is the proponents of a North Jersey casino are likely to put forward a 1-casino plan with a specific location in mind. One of the reasons given for the defeat of the 2016 initiative is residents in the aforementioned communities might have balked at voting “Yes” on the proposition, because they were concerned a casino would be built in their proverbial backyard.

A more specific plan therefore might gain much wider support in 2018.