Despite Scandal, Miss America Receives $4M Subsidy From Atlantic City’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority

Posted on: April 18, 2018, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: April 18, 2018, 07:52h.

Miss America is remaining in Atlantic City for at least another pageant.

Miss America CRDA subsidy
Minus a stint in Las Vegas, Miss America has long called Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall its home. That will continue for the 2019 competition. (Image: Miss America Organization)

Despite a scandal that shook up the organization in December over derogatory emails sent and received by then-CEO Sam Haskell and two board members regarding former Miss America winners, the pageant was approved this week for $4.325 million in state funding. The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of honoring the final installment of the three-year, $12.5 million contract.

Dick Clark Productions was quick to drop the broadcast after the scandal emerged, and NJ Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) called on the CRDA to annul the funds.

“I understand the CRDA had to fulfill its contractual obligation to the Miss America pageant this year and I respect that,” Mazzeo told The Press of Atlantic City. “However, as this contract ends, I would urge the CRDA leadership to better utilize the over $4 million on endeavors that will bring a greater return on investment to Atlantic City.”

In a brief statement, the CRDA said it was “encouraged” by the leadership change at Miss America and the 2019 competition’s “focus on women’s empowerment.” No date has been set for the pageant.

The Miss America Organization board has been overhauled. Seven of the 10 members are now women, with former Fox News host and commentator Gretchen Carlson its chair and CEO.

Casino Reinvestment?

Founded in 1984, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is a state agency that collects taxes from Atlantic City casinos and is to use the funds to invest in public and private projects that benefit the city and state.

According to its website, the CRDA “uses casino reinvestments as a catalyst for meaningful, positive improvement in the lives of New Jersey residents statewide. In doing so, the CRDA has dramatically and positively altered Atlantic City’s residential, commercial, cultural, and social landscape, while financially supporting quality-of-life improvement efforts.”

How using more than $4 million to support Miss America in Atlantic City lives up to that mission has been questioned by some area officials. The 2018 competition telecast on ABC drew just 5.6 million viewers, the lowest number in five years.

“The CRDA needs to seriously rethink and prioritize how it spends its money, and it should start with its subsidy to the Miss America Organization,” Mazzeo declared in January.

CRDA Funding, Projects

The CRDA has several revenue sources.

Its primary funding stream has historically been a 1.25 percent tax on gross gaming at Atlantic City casinos. However, during the city’s bankruptcy, those funds were directed away from the CRDA and instead earmarked to help pay down debt.

The CRDA also places a $5 per night hotel room tax, and $3 per day parking fee. The agency additionally taxes total hotel stays at nine percent, alcoholic drinks three percent, and concert tickets nine percent.

The CRDA has spent, or as they prefer “invested,” $10.4 million in improvements and renovations of Steel Pier. That includes $6.4 million to build a 200-foot Ferris wheel.

The Atlantic City Gateway Project has also received a $17 million investment from the CRDA. A residential and educational campus of Stockton University, the project is to open this fall.