“Britney Bill” Might Soon Pass, Giving A-List Entertainers Tax Breaks in New Jersey
A law designed to help Atlantic City casinos might soon be signed into law in New Jersey. The bill has passed in the legislature and Gov. Chris Christie could soon sign the “Britney Bill” into law in the state of New Jersey. The bill is designed to lure A-list entertainment acts to Atlantic City, boosting the city’s tourism trade and VIP casino visits.
The proposed Britney Bill gives tax breaks to top entertainers who earn money in New Jersey, presumably in Atlantic City casinos and convention halls. The bill was sponsored in the New Jersey state legislature by State Senators James Whelan (D-District 2) and Tom Kean (R-District 21). Whelan and Kean sponsored the bipartisan bill in January 2015.
Tax Breaks for A-List Celebrities
The name of the proposed law is a reference to Britney Spears, in particular her residency show at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Miss Spears is exactly the sort of A-List act New Jersey’s lawmakers want to draw to the state through passing such a tax break.
James Whelan, who represents the people of Atlantic City, says the bill “will help pump revenue into the local and state economy, create jobs, and at no cost.”
What Is an A-Lister?
Not everyone is convinced a new law would help. One problematic aspect of the 5-page bill is determining who is an A-List star. According to the language of the proposed statute, the Secretary of State Kim Guadagno (and all future NJ Secretaries of State) would have the final say on who is an A-Lister.
One pundit said, “Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Pharrell Williams are all unquestionably A-listers, but what about Jersey icon Frankie Vallie? The Secretary of State labeling and grouping performers seems difficult, and highly controversial.”
Criteria for Top Stardom
The language of the Britney Bill needs to be tightened up, so objective criteria could be used to qualify A-List acts. Proposals for that criteria includes record sales and ticket sales. Others have suggested adding those who collect national awards to the list.
Despite the reference to pop singer Britney Spears, the new law would cover a wide range of entertainers: professional dancers, standup comics, actors, and even athletes would be included.
Atlantic City’s Casino Industry
The Britney Bill is the latest in a series of measures designed to help Altantic City’s casino industry. In 2014, four of the city’s twelves casinos closed, while a fifth casino underwent a bankruptcy process. Gov. Chris Christie has worked with the Democrat-controlled legislature to push legalized sports betting in the state, as well as online gambling.
Atlantic City also received a short term loan of $40 million from the state, when the resort city’s budget shortfall meant it could not get an affordable line of credit from the New York City financial institutions. The legislature also signed a PILOT bill into law, which gives the casinos a tax break, along with more predictable taxes.
The number of measures New Jersey’s politicians have used to help Atlantic City have gotten attention in the U.S. Presidential Race. Newsworks, a Philadelphia-area publication, ran an op-ed piece this week which criticized Chris Christie’s economic policies as boiling down to one word: “gambling”. The pundit suggested Chris Christie had no viable economic policy in New Jersey, so he likely would not offer a viable economic policy for the United States, if he were elected the US President in 2016.
Signs of Both Trouble and Hope
While their might be some truth to the suggestion that Gov. Christie does not have a wider vision for bringing prosperity to the Boardwalk, it would be harsh to suggest he should sit idle while a prominent New Jersey city falls apart at the seams. All the above measures were meant to help Atlantic City’s gaming industry survive, while Mayor Don Guardian tries to transition the city’s tourist industry to non-gaming attractions. It has not been enough to convince everyone AC is viable, so the drumbeat continues to have one of more casinos built in North Jersey, which would end Atlantic City’s decades-long casino gaming monopoly in the state.
Some signs are positive, as Glenn Straub of Polo North bought Revel Casino and plans on opening a casino inside the ill-fated skyscraper, which cost $2.4 billion to build. Stockton University also recently sold the Showboat to a Philadelphia-area developer, who plans on re-opening a casino on the site.
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