No Dice for Atlantic City Casino Relief, as Legislation Fails to Garner Support

Posted on: August 4, 2020, 09:51h. 

Last updated on: August 4, 2020, 11:17h.

Legislation to help Atlantic City casinos recover from the financial impact caused by COVID-19 has paused in the Trenton capital. But lawmakers say relief for the state’s gaming industry could come at a later date.

Atlantic City casinos coronavirus relief
A craps dealer works a table at the Ocean Casino Resort. Atlantic City casinos are once again open, but property officials say they need financial assistance from the state to survive long term. (Image: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg)

Atlantic City’s nine casinos were forced to close on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) orders on March 16. They were permitted to reopen at 25 percent capacity on July 2.

As a result of the closers, gross gaming revenue (GGR) dropped $767 million through June 2020, compared with the same six months in 2019.

Senate Bill 2400/Assembly Bill 4032 and S2398/A4031 sought to reduce fees and tax obligations for casinos in the months and years ahead. But both pieces of legislation have been put on hold.

“It’s just really a very fluid situation as the virus continues to change, and how we manage the virus while supporting the industry and trying to figure out what’s the best way to move forward,” Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D- Burlington, Camden) told the Press of Atlantic City. Greenwald sponsored both bills.

Eight Atlantic City casinos reopened July 2. Borgata decided to remain closed after Murphy extended his ban on indoor dining and the consumption of alcohol. The MGM Resorts property eventually opened July 26.

People Over Taxes

Greenwald’s bills would temporarily modify the tax and fee structure for casinos. For 24 months, the casinos would see their standard 9.25 percent on GGR reduced to as little as zero. The final rate depends on each venue’s win compared with the same month immediately prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Casino resorts would also be permitted to deduct promotional credits from their overall casino win, and the annual $500 per slot machine fee would be waived through 2021. Daily hotel parking fees would additionally be suspended.

Greenwald said Monday that lawmakers believe it’s more important to pass legislation that attracts patrons back to Atlantic City over approving bills that simply reduce a casino’s tax responsibilities.

It’s not really so much about the tax relief as it is about how can we get the men and women back into the casino to stabilize that portion of the industry,” explained Greenwald.

That might not come anytime soon. Murphy said this week that the rate of transmission of the coronavirus is more than double where it was a few weeks ago.

“We know that there are many more of you who’ve been responsible in your actions, and who’ve taken your civic duties to help us defeat COVID-19 seriously,” Murphy stated. “Unfortunately, the actions of a few knuckleheads leave us no other course. We have to go back and tighten these restrictions.”

Executives Weigh In

Casino brass says their venues cannot last long under the current regulatory environment that limits capacity and keeps indoor restaurants and bars closed.

Without relief, I see real problems for the future,” Hard Rock President Joe Lupo declared.

“It would be very helpful if we could get some state relief. I’m hoping that the state is supportive of those bills,” added Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki.