The Asbury Park Press’ Dec. 24 editorial, “Don’t gamble with marijuana in Atlantic City,” opposing my proposal to bring recreational marijuana to the city only demonstrates the ever-expanding problems with the gaming industry.
The Press seemed eager to embrace establishment-fed alternatives, including the creation of two new North-Jersey-based casinos. Yet the sobering fact the Press disregards with that choice is that it will be necessary for taxpayers to foot the bill. That’s right: most recently, taxpayers in the state already shelled out $300 million for the creation of the now-defunct Revel Casino, which was sold for pennies on the dollar. Should we really be expanding that practice?
If we are to truly revitalize Atlantic City, we cannot keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. Financial bailouts have proven to be beyond costly and ineffective, and further expansion of the casino industry — be it within the confines of Atlantic City or elsewhere in the state – dilutes the market further, reducing the market share of each business.
Conversely, the introduction of a recreational marijuana industry promises to be substantially profitable. The product, which would be taxed and funded by dispensaries, would ultimately result in a positive cash flow to state and city coffers.
A recreational marijuana industry in Atlantic City would draw tens of thousands of tourists, eager to experience legalized marijuana on the East Coast. As potential pioneers of the industry in our part of the country, we stand to capitalize on one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States.
The Press’ impressive knowledge of cannabis culture references only serves the point that the next generation is eager to move past prohibition and the futile, costly and destructive war on marijuana that has dominated our policy landscape for the better part of a century. Lost upon them is the fact that as long as casinos are in Atlantic City, it will not necessarily be a “family-friendly” destination.
In fact, no fewer than 10 states have placed recreational marijuana on the ballot this year, including Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Florida and, casino-mecca, Nevada. By allowing recreational pot in Atlantic City, New Jersey casinos will once again attract gamblers from Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York who have foregone Atlantic City for their own state-based casinos. If we are once again to be a relevant gamblers playground, then we need to reinvent and distinguish ourselves from the other gambling states.
Finally, the Press’ insistence that Atlantic City’s overburdened police have enough problems is misplaced since a legalized marijuana industry will take away the crime element that drives the drug trade there. And while some may want to continue to gamble on taxpayer bailouts or North-Jersey-based casinos, I doubt it will have little beneficial affect on Atlantic City.
A regulated recreational marijuana industry, which currently has positively trending approval in the state, could breathe new life into the ocean city resort and could once again make Atlantic City the focal point of gambling and recreation activities on the East Coast.
Reed Gusciora is a Democratic state assemblyman representing the 15th Legislative District.