Atlantic City casinos tax relief bill in hands of N.J. governor

File photo Atlantic City's casinos had a strong month in September.

The New Jersey Senate on Monday passed legislation that would provide Atlantic City casinos with tens of millions of dollars in annual tax breaks, and it now sits on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk waiting for his signature.

The state Legislature passed the PILOT bill shortly before midnight Monday, making changes to an existing law enabling the nine casinos to make payments in lieu of property taxes to Atlantic City, Atlantic County and the school system.

In the Senate, the bill was approved 21-14, with four people not entering a vote or abstaining. All Senate Republicans voted against it.

In the Assembly, the vote was 46-19 in favor, with 13 not voting and two abstaining.

The bill, S4007/A5587, would reduce casinos’ payment-in-lieu-of-tax, or PILOT, each year until 2026. It is intended to help the casinos recover from the coronavirus pandemic by reducing large increases in such payments that would take effect.

The Casino Association of New Jersey said passing the amended PILOT program will protect thousands of jobs and provide certainty and stability to the market.

“Under the revised PILOT program, Atlantic City and Atlantic County will receive more tax revenue moving forward year over year from the casino industry, and the funding provided by the PILOT program will help improve Atlantic City’s infrastructure and create a safer community for visitors and residents,” reads a Tuesday statement from the CANJ. “We look forward to Gov. Murphy quickly signing this important legislation into law, and we are committed to working to continue to revitalize our historic seaside destination resort.”

Not everyone shares that enthusiasm. Peter Chen, senior policy analyst, New Jersey Policy Perspective, said: “Casinos already get special tax treatment through the 2016 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes law. This legislation accounted for fluctuating revenues by basing the PILOT amount on how much money the casinos brought in every year. Now, casinos are coming back for more, reducing their annual payments, as well as excluding from future calculations the fastest-growing part of their business: online sports betting worth more than $1 billion in 2021 so far. This losing bet for New Jersey deprives the state and its residents of much-needed public investments in schools, roads, services and other building blocks of a strong economy.”