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BILL WOULD TAX POTENTIAL NORTH JERSEY CASINOS AT FAR HIGHER RATE THAN ATLANTIC CITY

Link to NJ.com

BILL WOULD TAX POTENTIAL NORTH JERSEY CASINOS AT FAR HIGHER RATE THAN ATLANTIC CITY
By Matt Friedman/The Star-Ledger
July 09, 2014 at 1:08 PM

TRENTON, NJ – July 9, 2014 — If casinos open in northern New Jersey in the coming years, they could be paying a far higher tax rate than their Atlantic City counterparts.

On June 30, state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) introduced a bill (S2285) that would tax a potential future Meadowlands casino at a rate of 66 percent for their gross revenues.

Atlantic City casinos are currently taxed at 9.25 percent — 8 percent of gross revenues and a 1.25 percent "investment alternative tax."

Sarlo said he arrived at the 66 percent figure because it was the highest rate at which any state taxes casinos, and that he will likely revise it down.

“I don’t think in its final form it will be that high, but I recognize that it will be perhaps at 50 percent, which will help us generate revenue that we can send back to Atlantic City,” he said.

Sarlo has been pushing for a Meadowlands casino for a long time. But Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Gov. Chris Christie have, until recently, vociferously opposed casino gaming anywhere outside of Atlantic City. Since New Jersey legalized casino gambling in the 1970s, the resort has been the only place where it is permitted.

Things are beginning to change. Atlantic City is still struggling nearly four years into a five-year plan to save it. Sweeney recently said he may be open to letting voters decide whether to amend the constitution in November 2015 to allow North Jersey gambling, and Christie saying he’s willing to talk about it. Sweeney said any plan to allow North Jersey casinos would need to include financial help for Atlantic City.

On Tuesday, The Star-Ledger reported that venture capitalist Paul Fireman has been making the rounds with influential politicians about a potential casino near Liberty State Park in Jersey City, and next to the golf course he built in 2006.

Sarlo said he has no problem with North Jersey casinos in addition to one at the Meadowlands, and that he would likely amend his legislation to tax them at the same rate.

“There’s plenty of capacity in the region to put one in the Meadowlands and one in Jersey City. I’m not opposed to seeing a casino over at the golf course,” Sarlo said. “If you tax both of them at the higher rate, I think it generates enough revenue for the state of New Jersey to help the local economies in the northern part of the state as well as send money back to Atlantic City.”

Under Sarlo’s bill, 65 percent of the north Jersey casinos’ tax revenues would go into the state’s general fund, while 25 percent would go to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and 10 percent would go to the Hackensack Meadowlands Tax Sharing Stabilization Fund.

Sarlo said he also would like to restructure the two Meadowlands governing bodies — the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission — into one entity called the Meadowlands Redevelopment Authority.

"It would be more encompassing," Sarlo said. "It would oversee all the entertainment and gaming redevelopment in the Meadowlands district."
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