New Jersey State Senate Approves 2 Bills to Help Atlantic City Economy
The New Jersey State Senate passed a couple of bills aimed at helping the Atlantic City economy this week. The first helps nongambling startup companies in the resort city to open, while the second is meant to help the state in its ongoing lawsuit with the major American sports associations.
The Economic Opportunity Act of 2014 gives tax incentives to Atlantic City start-ups which are not in the gambling economy. The EOA bill passed by a 21-5 vote and is on its way to the Governor’s Office for final approval. It is expected to be signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in the next few days.
Don Guardian Supports the Economic Opportunity Act
Mayor Don Guardian of Atlantic City told the Press of Atlantic City that the Economic Opportunity Act would help the city attract nongambling businesses in its ongoing efforts to change from a gaming-dominated economy to an economy associated more with a nongaming resort destination.
Guardian told the newspaper, “It is rare that we don’t speak to one or two developers a day. And they all look for incentives. We were really excited when we heard the bill passed today.”
Garden State Growth Zones
The bill first was passed by the New Jersey State Assembly and the State Senate in June, but was vetoed in September by Governor Christie. At the time of the veto, Christie asked that Atlantic City be made the fifth Garden State Growth Zone, which qualifies the city for the maximum tax benefits available. The Assembly followed the governor’s recommendations on September 29 and passed the bill by a 49-13 margin, along with 9 abstentions. With the Senate passing a similar bill on Tuesday, Atlantic City now joins Camden, Passaic, Paterson, and Trenton as growth zones.
Such a classification makes Atlantic City eligible for the Economy Recovery and Growth reimbursements for commercial development projects. It also qualifies for the tax credits for residential development program. Already-existing businesses will get larger tax credits when they exceed fulll-time employment targets. The bill also provides incentives to the large, full-service supermarkets which are found in Camden and Atlantic City.
Repeal 2011 Sports Betting Law
The second bill passed repeals a 2011 sports gambling bill which stood in the way of Governor Chris Christie’s attempt to legalize sports gambling. A U.S. District Judge ruled in 2012 that laws which directly challenged the 1992 federal PASPA law against sports betting were unconstitutional. Judge Michael Shipp ruled that a state which has no such laws might ignore sports betting which took place, so unregulated gaming might skirt the PASPA law. That’s why the New Jersey legislature continues to pass repeals of the state’s sports gaming laws, though Chris Christie has disagreed on the legal repercussions. He vetoed the last such bill which pass the legislature, in August 2014.
Democrat Raymond Lesniak authored the current legislation, and he insists the current bill is the best way to approach the federal court system. Lesniak told CBS’s local affailiate in Philadelphia, “Atlantic City is hemorrhaging and our racetracks are bleeding and they need the boost in revenues that this legislation will provide.”
Dennis Drazin, who is consulting with Monmouth Park Racetrack on the idea of opening a sportsbook, said “People are betting with their local bookie, for the most part, except for Vegas. It’s not a comfortable environment. So this would give the public the confidence and the ability to bet in a way that’s not illegal. It would be a good thing for the country.”
Later this month, Michael Shipp will rule on the current lawsuit by the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. The suit is directed at Chris Christie’s attempt to legalize sports gambling in Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks like Monmouth Park. Several of the gaming businesses of New Jersey have begun to train sportsbook staff in preparation for the time when sports bets can be taken. The ultimate decision rides on Judge Shipp’s interpretation of the PASPA law, which determines policy on a national scale. Legal opinion is a bit murky on the issue, as the New Jersey administration and legislature cannot seem to agree on the best policy to employ.