PILOT Bill Approved by Senate to Provide Tax Relief for Atlantic City Casinos

    A tax relief bill for Atlantic City casinos has passed the New Jersey State Senate, and all that remains is the final signature from Governor Phil Murphy. The decision was made Monday night, with 21 Senate members voting in favor, 14 against, and 4 choosing to abstain.

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    PILOT Bill Approved by Senate for Atlantic City Casinos

    Coined the PILOT bill, this legislation amends an existing law enabling the nine casinos to make payments in lieu of property taxes to Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and the school system.

    The Governor made no comment when asked whether he would sign the bill. However, he has shown no opposition and even mentioned that the approach and direction of the bill were, in his words, "all good by me."

    Some Respite Following the Pandemic

    The goal of the PILOT bill is to help the casinos recover from the coronavirus pandemic by lessening the tax increase they will be required to pay next year.

    With the bill, the casinos will still pay more tax to the city, county, and schools next year, about $10 million to $15 million more collectively. However, payments are expected to rise by 50% without the bill.

    Casinos Claim Revenues Paint a Distorted Picture

    Although revenue figures show the casinos' overall numbers continuing to rise this year, Atlantic City casinos have said that those figures do not give the true impression of their financial condition.

    Revenue figures include in-person profits with money from internet gambling and sports betting. In reality, online casinos and sports betting profits do not all go to the operator's pockets, but must be shared with third-party providers like technology platforms and sportsbooks.

    The PILOT bill provides much-needed relief by excluding those two revenue streams from calculations on how much the casinos must pay in lieu of taxes.

    In-person betting is their core business, and revenue is significantly less compared to 2019. The Casino Association of New Jersey confirmed that of the nine casinos, only Hard Rock and Ocean (the two newest properties) have seen their in-person revenue increase since the year before the pandemic. The other seven are down a collective 22% relative.

    Protecting the Casino Economy

    Outgoing Democratic president of the state Senate, Steve Sweeney, has expressed his desire to see the bill finally take action. "I hope the Governor signs it as quickly as possible," he said following the Senate's decision. Sweeney further mentioned that as many as four of Atlantic City's nine casinos would be in danger of closing if the bill is not passed and signed into law.

    In a statement made on Tuesday, the Casino Association of New Jersey said that the measure "will protect thousands of jobs and provide certainty and stability to the market."

    "We look forward to Governor Murphy quickly signing this important legislation into law, and we are committed to working to continue to revitalize our historic seaside destination resort."

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