NJ.com- A Wall Street rating agency said Tuesday a plan to expand casino gambling to north Jersey would be "bad news" for Atlantic City and could cause more casinos to close in the Jersey Shore resort.
The report by Moody's Investors Service came on the same day a bill was formally introduced in the state Legislature that, if approved by lawmakers over the next six months, would ask voters in November whether to amend the state constitution to approve two casinos in north Jersey.
It also comes on the same day figures were released by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement showing that the eight remaining casinos Atlantic City — currently the only place in New Jersey allowed to offer casino gambling — took in $2.56 billion in 2015 — a 6.5 percent decline from 2014.
In all, Atlantic City has lost more than half its casino revenue over the last nine years as competition has increased in neighboring states. The city has seen four casinos close and more than 10,000 jobs lost over the last two years.
Moody's says the north Jersey expansion idea arrives at a time when there are eight new casinos expected to open in the northeast by 2018, including in Philadelphia.
"In our view, the additional competition will likely cause more casinos to close, which would be credit negative for Atlantic City," the report said.
South Jersey lawmakers have warned that up to three Atlantic City casinos could close if voters approve gambling in the northern part of the Garden State.
Lawmakers say opening north Jersey casinos would help keep New Jersey competitive in the market. And if approved by voters, the plan would send half of the tax revenue from the new gambling halls to help rebuild and revitalize the resort.
The measure is being considered Thursday by the state Senate's budget committee four days after Gov. Chris Christie and the leaders of the Legislature brokered a deal on how the plan will be presented to voters.