Tax Break Bill Could Save Four Atlantic City Casinos at Risk of Closure

  • A bill seeking to amend an existing PILOT law has passed a New Jersey Senate committee
  • S4007’s sponsor Dave Sweeney believes four casinos could shutter should the bill not pass
  • Casinos will pay Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and the school system instead of property taxes
  • Assemblyman-elect Donald Guardian said the bill would force county taxpayers to pay more
  • The bill will go before the full Senate later this year and also needs state Assembly approval
Atlantic City boardwalk
New Jersey Senate President Dave Sweeney’s tax cut bill has passed a committee, giving hope to four casinos he deems at risk of closure. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Substantial tax cut

A bill seeking to provide a substantial tax cut to Atlantic City gaming establishments has passed the New Jersey Senate budget committee, giving hope to four of the state’s casinos allegedly at risk of shuttering.

Outgoing Senate President Dave Sweeney (D), the sponsor of S4007, believes that the casinos in question need help to bounce back from COVID-19 fallout.

Atlantic City regional economic analyst Jim Kennedy shared Sweeney’s comments, made at a December 6 budget committee hearing, via Twitter:

Sweeney said of the four casinos in danger of closing: “We do not want that to happen.” The New Jersey lawmaker said Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) officials had “painted a very clear picture” of the financial risk the casinos face should S4007 not pass.

The bill would amend an existing casino payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) law to allow the gaming houses to make payments to Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and the school system instead of ponying up property taxes.

Lone voice of opposition

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the only person to speak in opposition of S4007 was former Atlantic City Mayor, Assemblyman-elect Donald Guardian (R).

force Atlantic County taxpayers to pay more so the casino industry gets a tax break”

“It will force Atlantic County taxpayers to pay more so the casino industry gets a tax break,” Guardian stated.

S4007’s most eye-catching element is perhaps the exclusion of sports betting and internet gambling revenues from the definition of gross gaming revenues, reports the Press. The bill does not, however, amend the 15% and 13% state taxes casinos have to pay on internet gambling revenue and online sports betting revenue, respectively. The bill also doesn’t affect the 9.25% tax on in-person casino revenue.

According to a fiscal analysis by New Jersey’s state Office of Legislative Services (OLS), the bill fixes the 2022 basic PILOT payment at $110m, a significant reduction of about $55m on the current bill. The OLS reckons that, post 2022, reductions through 2026 will be between $30m to $65m.

Need for stability

President of CANJ and Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino, Joe Lupo, said the amended bill will give casinos stability, as opposed to placing them in “grave danger.”

“We fully expect to pay our fair share, but we need stability moving forward,” Lupo said.

Atlantic City’s casinos have bounced back robustly back from last year’s pandemic, with profits and revenue up substantially in 2021. In June, The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa announced a new air service to transport gamblers to and from its property.

According to Newsweek, the proposed bill will lower payments for some casinos, “including the Borgata, while imposing higher payments onto others, including Hard Rock.”

After passing muster via committee, Sweeney’s bill will now go before the full Senate later this year. It also needs state Assembly approval.