Atlantic City Council Supports Mayor, Wants City to Get Sports Betting Tax Dollars

  • Casinos taxed 1.25% on sports betting revenue
  • Atlantic City casino tax revenue required to go toward tourism marketing
  • Mayor wants tax money for property tax relief, City Council passed resolution in support
  • Governor, Senate President disagree with mayor
canoe off the beach in Atlantic City
The Atlantic City Council has passed a resolution calling on the state government to change the law and allow the city to use the 1.25% sports betting tax from its casinos to directly benefit city residents. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

City Council voted for resolution

The Atlantic City Council passed a resolution on Friday asking the New Jersey state government to allow the city to use the 1.25% in sports betting taxes as it wishes. The resolution backs the mayor, who expressed his feelings on the matter in November.

The City Council’s resolution is largely symbolic; it is unlikely to result in action on the state level

Neither Governor Phil Murphy nor State Senate President Steve Sweeney have responded positively to Mayor Marty Small Sr.’s appeal. The City Council’s resolution is largely symbolic; it is unlikely to result in action on the state level.

Tax money goes toward marketing

Shortly after sports betting was legalized in New Jersey last year, the state government passed a law assessing a 1.25% tax on sports betting revenue.

The tax money generated from Atlantic City casinos does not go directly to the city to allocate as it wishes, though. Instead, it is allocated to the city’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), to be used for the “marketing and promotion” of Atlantic City.

As a comparison, the racetracks in East Rutherford and Oceanport are also charged the 1.25% tax, but the money goes right to the municipalities and the counties that they are in. Three-fifths of that tax is for the city and two-fifths is for the county. The tax, as stipulated by law, is allocated to “economic development purposes, which shall include, but not be limited to, improvements to: transportation and infrastructure, tourism, public safety, and properties located on or near the racetrack.”

From the start of sports betting through the first half of 2019, the sports betting tax generated $1.141 million from Atlantic City casinos.

Mayor wants tax revenue for property tax relief

It is that disparity between Atlantic City and the other cities when it comes to the tax that upsets Mayor Small. Though the CRDA helps the city through marketing that contributes to bringing in tourist dollars, Mayor Small would rather the 1.25% tax be used to help the city’s residents directly. He would like it to go toward property tax relief.

“In 14 months, New Jersey has overtaken Las Vegas as the No. 1 sports betting destination, and a lot of it has to with the success of Atlantic City and online,” he said at a city Taxpayer’s Association meeting about a month ago.

But we don’t get one penny. … That’s unacceptable.”

“We’re not asking for anything that no one else gets,” Mayor Small added. “That’s going to be the fight. I represent the taxpayers. My number one priority, and it always will be, is to stand and fight for them.”

State officials oppose tax change

Governor Phil Murphy and State Senate President Steve Sweeney, on the other hand, aren’t too keen on giving Small what he wants.

At the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ annual luncheon in November, Sweeney was critical of Mayor Small and Atlantic City, saying, “You can’t talk about raising taxes or finding new sources of revenue until you really do have your house in order. This city still has a long way to go.”

Governor Murphy was more diplomatic, but intentionally vague.

“We sit and listen to the elected officials in this community, and we try to find a way forward together,” he said. “So we’ll see on that one. To be determined.”