New Jersey Casinos Could Get Restricted Tax Breaks, Loans as Pandemic Continues

Posted on: May 6, 2020, 09:22h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2020, 12:13h.

Atlantic City’s nine casinos stand to benefit from bills that were introduced this week in the New Jersey Assembly that provide gaming businesses with limited loans and tax credits in response to the coronavirus-linked downturn.

NJ Casino Tax Breaks, Loans
Steve Callender, a casino industry veteran who is also president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, has backed new gaming legislation in the state’s Assembly. (Image: The Press of Atlantic City)

The state’s gaming venues were shuttered on March 16. Previously, Atlantic City’s casinos reported 21 straight months of gross gaming revenue (GGR) gains.

Both casinos and gaming workers were hurt financially from the closings. There are worries from industry analysts, union officials, and Atlantic City politicians.

Under Assembly Bill 4031, casinos could get interest-free loans for property tax payments to Atlantic City. The money would come from the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund, which gives tax breaks to lower-income residents and senior citizens, NJBIZ reported.

Also, Assembly Bill 4032 would give tax breaks to gaming properties. The tax breaks could be used to “rehire and employ former employees,” NJBIZ reported. In addition, the money could be used for marketing.

The bills are sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. They are both Democrats.

Bills Questioned by Legislators

Not every legislator supports the bills. The Press of Atlantic City reported that Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo, D-Northfield, and John Armato, D-Buena Vista Township, were concerned the legislation could take money away from programs needed by seniors and the needy.

I’m sure the casino industry — they’re going to need help,” Mazzeo told the Press. “But we have some questions. If you give loans out of the Property Tax Relief Fund, what does that do to the Senior Freeze and Homestead Rebate programs, which regular folks depend on to reduce property taxes?”

Mazzeo and Armato chief of staff Charity Jeffries added that, “The concern is not that casinos don’t need a little help. But why is it coming at the expense of Atlantic City and Atlantic County taxpayers again?”

Casino Association of New Jersey Backs Legislation

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts, said in an association statement he wants to see the relief bills approved by the legislature soon.

“The Atlantic City economic stimulus and relief bills are critical to ensure our industry and its thousands of employees have a path forward once we are through this pandemic,” Callender said in the statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest health threat of our lifetime,” Callender added. “This crisis has caused an unimaginable loss of life and devastated our state and local economy.”

He predicts that “Once we reopen and start to recover, we know that there is a long road ahead of us and our employees.

This legislation will help stabilize this vital industry, support the safe reopening of our proprieties, and help us welcome back employees and guests as soon as New Jersey’s stay-at-home order is lifted,” Callender added. “This legislation will also help us resume our purchases from New Jersey vendors, as well as the tax payments that are based on casino revenue and employment.”

He emphasized, too, how the gaming industry made significant contributions to state and local economies.

“Until the recent closure of our casinos, the New Jersey casino industry directly employed over 26,000 people, hosted more than 25 million annual visitors, and in 2019, paid nearly $500 million in local, county, and state taxes,” Callender said. New Jersey’s casino industry’s annual taxes to state and local governments is over $1 billion, and its total economic impact across the state of New Jersey is $6.45 billion, according to American Gaming Association data.

“We are proud of our track record of giving back to the communities we serve,” Callender said. “We are invested in our city, which is why all of our casinos have been making donations to local organizations.”