Atlantic City Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Director to Depart

Posted on: November 23, 2023, 08:56h. 

Last updated on: November 23, 2023, 10:20h.

The executive director of New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) is reportedly set to resign.

Casino Reinvestment Development Authority CRDA
Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Sean Pattwell speaks at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City on Sept. 26, 2023. Pattwell is reportedly ready to exit the New Jersey state government agency. (Image: X)

ROI-NJ, a media outlet focused on business matters in the Garden State, reported Wednesday that Sean Pattwell will leave his role in the near future. The report did not specify a time line for his departure.

Pattwell joined the CRDA as its executive director on April 1, 2022. Before his arrival, Pattwell worked in the insurance industry. He holds a Bachelor’s and three Master’s degrees and is currently pursuing a fourth in literature from Harvard University. The ROI-NJ report said Pattwell is leaving to “pursue other opportunities.”

After New Jersey voters in 1976 passed a ballot referendum that amended the state’s Constitution to allow casino gambling in Atlantic City, the State Legislature in 1984 formed the CRDA.

The 1984 law required each casino license to direct 2.5% of its gross gaming revenue to the state or reinvest 1.25% of its gaming income through the CRDA. Without exception, the Atlantic City casinos have chosen reinvestment, though how the state agency has spent those funds certainly hasn’t been without controversy.

CRDA Funding

Along with collecting 1.25% of each casino’s brick-and-mortar gaming revenue, the CRDA receives other taxes generated by the resorts. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority levies a “luxury tax” on hotel revenue (9%) and collects 3% of alcohol sales and 9% of entertainment receipts. The CRDA also collects a nightly $3 per vehicle parking charge from the casinos.

The CRDA’s mission statement is to reinvest the casino revenue and resort taxes into projects and programs that facilitate “meaningful, positive change.” But many Atlantic City residents have in recent years questioned how certain CRDA allocations have adhered to that criteria.

The agency faced criticism for its ongoing financial support of the Miss America pageant hosting its annual event at Boardwalk Hall. The CRDA regularly gave the Miss America Organization more than $4 million a year. But following widespread backlash, the agency terminated the subsidy after the 2019 show. The pageant has since been held at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

A year earlier, then-New Jersey State Auditor Stephen Eells concluded in his audit of the CRDA that the agency “did not always ensure an effective and efficient use of its funds.” Eells also found accounting discrepancies.

The Eells report also criticized the agency for not properly negotiating with third parties, and therefore, overpaying vendors. Robert Mulcahy, who was the CRDA chair in 2018, defended the agency.

“I want to make sure that the public understands that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is audited annually by one of the top independent accounting firms in the nation,” Mulcahy responded to the Eells findings. “Those professional audits have resulted in unmodified clean opinions, confirming the authority’s design, implementation, and maintenance of internal controls relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements.”

CRDA Executive Search

The CRDA will soon begin its national search for its next executive director. State employee records show Pattwell’s salary as executive director of the casino agency was $175,000.

The Press of Atlantic City in April wrote a profile piece on Pattwell that detailed a different leadership approach than his predecessor, former CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty.

[Pattwell] rarely offers interviews, and does not appear to have spoken at a board meeting since starting the job last April. The meetings are still held remotely, and minutes of the meetings show Pattwell in attendance,” Press journalist Bill Barlow wrote.

“To illustrate the point, Pattwell could not be contacted for an interview for this story. So far, he has not responded to previous requests for comment on news stories about CRDA issues, and staff members said no interview could be arranged for this story until June,” Barlow added.