By: Laurence D. Laufer
Long ago, New Jersey said no.As for New York, a Constitutional amendment will be on the ballot this year to authorize casino gambling. Enabling legislation passed at the close of the legislative session did not, in the end, include any restrictions on political contributions from the casino industry. This omission contrasts with the regulation of casinos in New Jersey. The 1977 Casino Control Act implemented the referendum New Jersey voters approved permitting casinos. This law flatly prohibits any political contribution to New Jersey candidates or committees by casino license holders or applicants, by their holding or subsidiary companies and by their officers, directors, casino key employees or principal employees. (A 2009 amendment makes a narrow exception for Atlantic City municipal candidates contributing to their own campaigns.)
Might, however, industry-specific contribution prohibitions be vulnerable to constitutional challenge? In 1989, the constitutionality of the New Jersey prohibitions was challenged by a casino employee on Free Speech and Equal Protection grounds. An appellate court, relying in part on Buckley v. Valeo, upheld the statute as a permissible exercise of government regulation over an industry with a history of links to organized crime. The New Jersey Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review.