TRENTON — Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. has long spoken about the need for the city to retain more taxes generated by its casino industry, and a bill was introduced to a Senate committee Thursday morning to initiate this process.
Invoice S854 would send 1.25% of sports gaming dollars generated by resort casinos to the city for property tax relief, rather than to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to market and promote the city.
“When the bill (legalizing sports gambling) was first passed in 2018, the only municipality or township that did not benefit from sports gambling was Atlantic City,” said Small, who was in Trenton to speak in favor of the bill. “Make it meaningful.
After the vote, Small said he was excited for the city to take more control of its finances.
“CRDA did a great job partnering (with us) and did a lot for us,” Small said. “But I don’t like the attitude of putting a limit on what Atlantic City gets.”
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He said CRDA funding should continue and as a state agency it can get its funding from other areas.
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The decision to give the CRDA the municipal share of taxes on sports games was taken at the start of the city’s takeover by the state, which in 2016 was in danger of going bankrupt. The city had a history of overspending and then had to reimburse tens of millions of dollars to individual casinos after their successful property tax appeals.
Other municipalities that host racetracks offering sports betting, for example, have benefited from the 1.25% tax, Small said.
The city’s financial situation has improved significantly since then, Small pointed out, and its taxpayers should now benefit more from taxes generated in the city.
S854 sponsor Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, estimated about $2.5 million would be newly available to the city as part of his bill. It generated around $2 million in 2020, Singleton said, based on reports from the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.
But sports gaming revenue has grown at a rapid rate every year since legalization, and he didn’t have numbers for 2021.
Committee member Sen. Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, did not support the bill, saying the CRDA needs funds to market the city and prepare for new competition from New York casinos expected to open. In the coming years.
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The city is getting a significant tax break under a revised payment in lieu of casino tax bill approved by the Legislative Assembly in December, Polistina said.
Polistina also opposed the PILOT amendment bill, which Atlantic County has filed a lawsuit over, and said any changes to the money paid to the CRDA must come after a “global discussion about Atlantic City’s current situation and its future.
The annual amount taken from the CRDA will be closer to $10 million, Polistina estimated, based on 2021 sports betting revenue.
“We have to make sure we’re all talking about the same numbers,” Polistina said.
The Office of Legislative Services has certified the bill (S854) for a tax note, which means it has determined that the bill requires a tax impact report. But it has not yet been posted with the bill, which still has to go through the entire Senate and Assembly.
S854 was supported by the three Democrats on the Senate State Government, Gambling, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, but opposed by Polistina and Sen. James W. Holzapfel, R-Ocean.
Small has long complained that his city gets nothing from a variety of state-imposed taxes on aspects of the casino and tourism industry, including parking, luxuries and hotel room occupancy. . Sports betting is another area where the state taxes but the city receives nothing, the mayor said.
“Everyone in this room, and there are about 25 of us, can drive into Atlantic City,” Small said. “Once we parked our car, it’s the parking fee. We go to the bar and we buy a drink, it’s the luxury tax. We go back to our room, it’s the tourist tax. We’re going to a late-night show, that’s another luxury tax. Then we make a sports bet; it is the sports betting tax.
“Guess what the people of Atlantic City got out of our stay?” He asked. “Zero. When are we going to have our piece of the pie?”
New Jersey has led the nation in terms of the size of its sports betting market since shortly after the first legal bets in 2018. It only lost its top spot nationally in January, once the New York State allowed mobile sports betting and overtook New Jersey. .
Singleton said state lawmakers continually talk about giving money back to the people.
“It’s literally giving taxpayers money back,” he said. “If we’re serious about affordability, here’s an opportunity.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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