HomeMoorestown NewsMayor’s column: Addressing a Moorestown Mall petition

Mayor’s column: Addressing a Moorestown Mall petition

Lately, residents have been asking about a petition that is circulating in Moorestown, so I thought I’d use this month’s column to help clarify what’s going on.

First and foremost, the petition is being circulated by PREIT, the owners of the Moorestown Mall, to add a question to the ballot in November as to whether the township should permit “games of chance”. PREIT is planning to bring a new family entertainment venue to the old Lord & Taylor location that will include roller skating, virtual reality, escape rooms, bowling, laser tag, arcades, trampolines, go karts, rope course and more. So why are they circulating a petition?

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In 1962, Moorestown residents voted to opt out of the 1959 New Jersey State Amusement Games Licensing Law, which allows a municipality to permit games of chance that involve the award of prizes or issuance of redemption tickets for prizes. Note that “games of chance” in this law does NOT include gambling activities like you’d find at a casino, but rather the kind of games you’d find at businesses like Dave & Buster’s or Chuck E. Cheese. We are one of very few municipalities in the state that still prohibit games of chance and the businesses that provide them, and all of the towns surrounding Moorestown allow them.

The law specifies that the only way to change this is by a municipal referendum, and that the question can only be added to the ballot by means of a petition, with signatures equal to 15% of Moorestown voters in the last election for members of the NJ General Assembly (about 1350 voters, based on the 2021 election). So, for this entertainment venue (which will also include dining and a bar for patrons over age 21) to open at the mall, Moorestown voters must vote to overturn the 1962 referendum that prohibited games of chance with prizes.

If the canvassers are successful in collecting enough signatures by the deadline (60 days before the general election), Moorestown residents will see a question on their ballots this fall. The law specifies EXACTLY how the question must appear on the ballot. Unfortunately, that language is far from clear. Basically, voting “yes” will allow games of chance with prizes in Moorestown, and “no” will keep the law as-is and prohibit such games. Note that voting “yes” would not allow, or pave the way for, casinos or in-person gambling at the mall or anywhere else in Moorestown (NJ state law restricts casino gambling to Atlantic City).

You can find more information about the petition and the plans for an entertainment venue at https://moorestownfamilyfun.com/. Individuals wearing purple t-shirts saying “Bring Family Fun to Moorestown” are knocking on doors asking residents to sign the petition, and you may also see them at the mall or at community events. Signing the petition means you agree the question should be placed on the ballot to enable residents to vote on it. The petition itself, no matter how many people sign it, does not change the law; only voters can do that. If you’d like to sign the petition, but haven’t seen canvassers, you can sign up at https://moorestownfamilyfun.com to have someone bring the petition to you.

If the petition is successful, PREIT will be sharing more information about their plans for the entertainment venue before we go to the polls (or fill out our mail-in ballots) for the November 7 general election.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the referendum or PREIT’s plans, please email info@moorestownfamilyfun.com.


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