Atlantic City casinos demand a vote on aid package

The Casino Association of New Jersey called on the state Legislature to vote on takeover and financial aid bills immediately.

US.- The Casino Association of New Jersey demands an immediate vote on bills in the state Legislature that would help the casinos and let the state take over the city’s finances. “We are all now on the edge of the abyss and this impasse must end,” the association wrote.

The group also called on Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to post his version of the Atlantic City aid package, one of two competing measures currently being considered in Trenton. The bills differ on when the state could seize control of the nearly broke city’s finances. However, both bills would let the casinos make payments in lieu of taxes in return for not appealing their tax assessments.

The Association said either bill would be helpful in the current situation, so if Prieto’s bill fails in the Assembly, he should then post the version that has already cleared the Senate for a vote in his chamber. Under this legislation, the casinos would get cost-certainty in knowing how much they will have to budget instead of unpredictable annual tax bills that can vary widely from year to year. Furthermore, costly tax appeals from the casinos would no longer affect negatively Atlantic City’s budget. The Borgata alone is owed more than US$170 million, including interest, in tax appeals the resort has won from the city.

Atlantic City is close to running out of money. The bills aim to provide millions of dollars in aid, but only after meeting financial benchmarks laid down by the state of New Jersey. The Assembly version would give Atlantic City up to two years to improve its finances, whilst the Senate gives the city 130 days.

According to many states officials, Atlantic City had spent lavishly for generations when casino revenues were rolling in. Now casino revenue has fallen from US$5.2 billion in 2006 to US$2.56 billion last year making that level of spending unsustainable.