New Jersey lawmakers pass Atlantic City casino aid bill

The New Jersey Legislature has passed the new casino PILOT bill.
The New Jersey Legislature has passed the new casino PILOT bill.

The goal of the PILOT bill is to help Atlantic City casinos recover from the pandemic.

US.- A bill that would give tax relief to Atlantic City’s casinos and possibly prevent the closure of as many as four of them has been passed by the New Jersey Legislature. The legislation is intended to help venues recover from the Covid-19 pandemic by reducing increases in payments to the state that would otherwise take effect via the exclusion of igaming and sports wagering from calculations of how much casinos must pay in lieu of taxes.

Although the proposal saw strong opposition and Atlantic County threatened to sue over the changes, the bill made it through a 21-14 vote. All Senate Republicans voted against it, while in the Assembly, the vote went 46-19 in favour, with 13 not voting and two abstaining. Now, the bill goes to the desk of Governor Phil Murphy to be signed off.

Atlantic county executive Dennis Levinson warned the county will sue if the bill passes both houses and is signed by the governor. However, he said he still hopes Governor Murphy will not sign it. The governor has not commented but has not said anything yet but suggested he believed the bill to be a step in the right direction, leading many to believe that he will support it.

Earlier this month, Senate President Steve Sweeney warned that four of the city’s nine casinos would likely close without the new PILOT bill. However, no casino has publicly made that claim, which has since been protested by parties opposing the legislation.

“Failure to pass the PILOT legislation will have a further detrimental impact on the land-based casinos, which are still recovering from this unprecedented pandemic,” the Casino Association of New Jersey, the casinos’ trade group, said in a statement Friday. The group said the bill would bring stability and help protect 20,000 jobs, among other benefits.

Revenue figures reported by the state show casinos’ numbers continue to rise this year. But the casinos say those figures paint a distorted picture of their true financial situation by including money from internet gambling and sports betting.

Casinos argue that, despite certain verticals and operations now doing well, in-person wagering is still down significantly from 2019. While the two newest casinos in the state – Hard Rock and Ocean – have posted in-person revenue up since 2019, the seven other casinos are down a collective 22 per cent, further reports The Press of Atlantic City, based on data from the casino association.

The first version of the bill was passed five years ago when Atlantic City was reeling from the closure of five of its 12 casinos. The bill does not affect the state taxes casinos must pay on internet gambling revenue (15 per cent) and online sports betting revenue (13 per cent), nor the 9.25 per cent tax on in-person casino revenue.

See also: Atlantic City casino profits more than double in Q3

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