New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed on Monday a set of proposed measures aimed at stabilizing Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry, saying that those would not bring “economic revitalization and fiscal stability” to the city.
Instead of signing the package of bills he had formerly been presented with, Gov. Christie proposed his own version of the set of measures that would give the state greater control over Atlantic City and its future.
Reportedly, Senate President Stephen Sweeney was highly critical of the veto at first, but issued a joint statement with the Governor later on Monday, saying that the matter requires all interested parties to sit down together and discuss the future of Atlantic City, known to be the only place in New Jersey where casino gambling is legal.
Last year, the city saw four of its twelve gambling venues close doors amidst a general casino revenue downturn. With eight operating casinos, Atlantic City and state officials are well-aware that “a comprehensive, forward-looking plan is needed” in order for the city’s gambling industry to be stabilized and revitalized.
A centerpiece in the so-called PILOT program was a bill that would require all eight casinos to annually pay the total amount of $150 million to the city instead of property taxes for a period of two years. The gambling venues would also pay $120 million for the next thirteen years. The amount could be subjected to further discussions and changes based on the generated gross gaming revenue.
The proposed bill also called for the establishment of a casino council, which would be required to determine the fees each of the casinos would annually pay.
Gov. Christie scrapped the council provision and called for the New Jersey Local Finance Board and the Division of Gaming Enforcement to determine the fees instead.
What is more, the funds would not be sent directly to Atlantic City but would be paid to the state. The money would then be distributed to the city after an approval by the Local Finance Board. Essentially, Gov. Christie retained the 15-year structure outlined in the PILOT program as well as the amounts of money that are to be paid by local gambling venues.
Commenting on the adjustments he made, Gov Christie said that without those the set of bills proposed by the Legislature would not result in “long-term prosperity, economic growth, and expansion” of Atlantic City’s gaming, entertainment, and tourism industries.
A proposed measure that called for gaming tax revenue to be allocated to Atlantic City in order for it to be able to pay its debt service on certain bonds it had issued was also among the bills vetoed by the Governor. Currently, gaming tax revenue goes to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
The Casino Association of New Jersey, an organization representing Atlantic City’s eight casinos, said in a statement that it was disappointment with Gov. Christie’s adjustments and that the involved parties need to sit down together and resolve the pending issues as quickly as possible.