The New Jersey PILOT bill was presented as a way to help Atlantic City’s nine casinos overcome the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a contentious piece of legislation from the start that only became more problematic when it was approved in December. After legal challenges surfaced to try to get the legislation halted, a judge gave New Jersey until yesterday to indicate whether mediation was an acceptable path to resolution. It isn’t.
New Jersey Declines Mediation over PILOT Bill
In December, the PILOT bill passed both the Senate and Assembly. It was quickly signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy and made a significant change in the way that casinos pay property taxes. This resulted in less funding for Atlantic County.
To stop the law from going into effect, the county sued. Mediation was then suggested as a way to avoid a drawn-out and costly legal fight. However, New Jersey isn’t willing to negotiate. The PILOT bill has been approved and, according to state leaders, that’s the end of the story.
Dennis Levinson, county executive, said that he was “flabbergasted” and “very dismayed” by the state’s refusal to use neutral mediators. “We’re going to fight. It is going to cost plenty of money,” Levinson stated, according to the Press of Atlantic City. “They know they violated our consent order that they signed and agreed to. And everyone else knows it.”
This consent order was entered to settle a lawsuit against the 2016 PILOT bill. It provided specific payments that were based on the law and will run through 2026.
Levinson stated that county taxpayers are at risk of losing more than $30 million over the next five years. Oral arguments will be held before Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczyk on February 8.
Cigarettes Smoke Clouds Atlantic City Casinos
Atlantic City casinos have been fighting for – and against – a smoking ban for years. It looked like a ban would be introduced in 2020, but what emerged was only a temporary ban. A group of legislators is going to try, once again, to find support for an across-the-board smoking ban at the casinos.
Six senators have introduced Senate bill S264, which has been referred to the Senate Health Committee. It is anticipated that a companion bill will be prepared for the Assembly and presented soon. Both bills could take several months to see their way through the legislative maze.
No-smoking policies at casinos are becoming the norm. However, officials from the Casino Association of New Jersey, which represents Atlantic City casinos, have stated that forcing smokers to go outside could lead to lost customers. They apparently haven’t bothered to do their homework.