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Atlantic City Proposes To Tax Online Operators To Help Land Casinos
Thursday January 1,2015 : PROPOSAL TO TAX NEW JERSEY ONLINE OPERATIONS TO HELP ATLANTIC CITY
An idea that is hardly likely to be well-received by battling online gambling operators.
The continuing parlous state of New Jersey's gambling enclave Atlantic City has prompted Steve Sweeney, the president of the New Jersey Senate, to make a controversial proposal in an op-ed article in the publication Philly.com.
Part of the proposal is to introduce an investment alternative tax - a levy of 1.25 percent on gross gaming revenues and 2.5 percent on Internet gaming revenues, which would be used to pay Atlantic City's debts, saving residents $25 million to $30 million each year.
Sen. Sweeney says that urgent action is required, pointing out:
"While Atlantic City's collective tax base was worth $20.5 billion in 2010, Mayor Don Guardian has said it's expected to sink to $9 billion next year and around $7 billion later in the decade. No other city in New Jersey has seen its total property value drop 55 percent in five years.
"Four Atlantic City casinos have closed, and the financial crisis has resulted in lower tax assessments for the eight that remain. The $210 million in property-tax revenue generated last year is a thing of the past.
"Under a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (or PILOT) program I'm proposing, the casinos would make payments equivalent to what they would likely owe without a recovery plan. This would provide predictability by avoiding the appeals that often delay and decrease casinos' tax payments. The money would go to the city, the schools, and the county in the same proportion as current tax revenues."
Sen. Sweeney says his plan has the potential to help everyone involved, although he admits that it would not "...make all of the city's fiscal problems go away immediately."
He lists the advantages as:
* Stability for casino property-tax payments. The legislation would authorize payments in lieu of taxes of $150 million annually for two years and $120 million annually for three years thereafter. It would guarantee tax payments indexed to gross gaming revenues over the next 15 years;
* Gives certainty to all the parties involved;
* Redirect land and internet gambling taxes to help pay Atlantic City's debts, saving New Jersey tax payers millions every year;
* Redirect Atlantic City Alliance money. Funds formerly used by the alliance would also help offset the loss of property-tax revenues;
* Reduce municipal administrative costs;
* Require the gaming industry to provide worker benefits. Casinos would be required to provide a baseline health-care and retirement package for their employees.
The senator proposes that all of these provisions would sunset after 15 years, and after 13 years, a commission would be established to review the city's situation and determine its future needs.
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