A bill that would have ended property-tax fights between casinos and Atlantic City was conditionally vetoed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The governor wants the bill altered to help stabilize the struggling resort city’s finances.
A statement from Christie e-mailed to reporters on Monday suggested changes to the proposed legislation which he returned to lawmakers for their approval. As the bill was written, fixed payments would have been established by the measure rather than taxes based on real estate values, which would have allowed officials to avoid appeals that could “significantly strain city finances,” according to Bloomberg. Bills that had been passed in June by the legislature that would have diverted gambling revenue to the city were also changed by Christie and returned to the legislature. Those funds were counted on by the city to help narrow this year’s $101 million deficit.
Christie said in a statement, “Without these adjustments, the bills put before me by the legislature will not set a course for renewed long-term prosperity, economic growth, and expansion in the region’s tourism, entertainment, and gaming industries.”
Competition from neighboring states has eroded Atlantic City’s onetime dominance over East Coast gambling and pushed what once was a gambling hub into state financial oversight. Atlantic City’s tax base has been battered by last year’s closing of four of 12 casinos. Casinos are losing business and in order to lower their tax bills they have battled Atlantic City’s property assessments. Approximately $200 million in refunds to casinos is faced by Atlantic City, $153 million of that is due to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Changes to the tax measure requested by Christie include the release of revenue from casinos collected by the state’s local finance board made dependent on the city’s fiscal progress.
In a joint statement, Governor Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney said that they would work in tandem on a final plan for reviving Atlantic City. The two said, “That plan will incorporate all actions that will be necessary to unlock Atlantic City’s vast potential and ensure prosperity for both all residents and businesses.”
On a positive note, last month New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement published a report that shows an increase in the overall gaming revenue of Atlantic City’s eight surviving land based casinos; an increase of approximately 11 percent from the same period last year.