ew Jersey lawmakers advanced on Thursday legislation that would provide temporary relief to Atlantic City's struggling casino industry, with the passing of bill A4032/S2400 by the Assembly Budget Committee.
The proposed legislation, which was approved by the state Senate in June, is scheduled for a vote of the full Assembly —the New Jersey legislature's lower house— on Thursday, the Press of Atlantic City reports.
Lawmakers cited a “catastrophic and unprecedented economic contraction,” to Atlantic City and the surrounding area as result of the 107-day shut down of the casinos, which resulted in more than $112 million in operating losses for the gambling parlors and a nearly 50% reduction of the industry’s workforce.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent business closures has clearly not just reversed the consistent track of economic improvement that the Atlantic City casino industry had worked very hard to achieve over the last several years, but also has set back the economy of an entire region that is greatly dependent on the jobs, tourism spending and purchases that the Atlantic City casinos generate," reads the text of the amended legislation.
The proposed legislation allows for a one-year reduction in taxes paid on gross gaming revenue and a monthly deduction against gross gaming revenue equal to the amount of promotional gaming credits (free and/or match play) used by customers. The legislation was amended to remove tax breaks on hotel and parking fees and also got rid of a provision which would have required the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to pay for city marketing.
Because a portion of casino taxes and fees are used to fund state programs for seniors and the disabled, including rural transportation services, some lawmakers initially opposed the bill. But the legislation was amended to ensure that those programs are funded to match pre-pandemic levels.
Another COVID-19 emergency relief bill, A4002/S2257, is also scheduled to be voted on by the General Assembly Thursday.
The bill would permit casinos and racetracks to deduct promotional gaming credits from gross sports betting revenue above certain thresholds from being taxed. The bill allows for the operators to deduct gross revenue above $12 million (online/mobile) and $8 million (in-person/retail) generated from either free or promotional wagers used by customers.
A third piece of COVID-19 emergency legislation that would require the state Treasury to extend interest-free loans to casino operators has been stalled since June.