New Jersey Supreme Court Places Lien on Former Revel Casino
The Former Revel Casino faces a lien due to unpaid Special Improvement District fees, which is overseen by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). The lien was imposed by a New Jersey Supreme Court justice for unpaid fees from 2015.
It is the latest in a series of showdowns Revel’s owner, Glenn Straub, has had with New Jersey regulators and Atlantic City officials.
Revel Casino owes money to the CRDA’s Special Improvement District for 2016 and 2017, but the ruling did not cover those unpaid fees.
The lien effectively stop the building’s owner from selling the property, before paying back fees, fines, and taxes.
What Does the Special Improvement District Do?
The CRDA described the Special Improvement Division (SID) as providing funds to “improve the cleanliness and safety for the business community and visitors to Atlantic City.”
All the Atlantic City casinos make payments to the SID program, which in turn handles a great deal of the maintenance and security around the Atlantic City casino district. The CRDA says on its website the Special Improvement District oversees “boardwalk and dune cleaning, recycling collection, street/curb line/sidewalk cleaning, landscape maintenance of parks and streets, [and] beautification of vacant lots through the construction of pocket parks or community gardens….”
The list continues into a variety of beautification projects, including “installation of banners and winter decorations“, various sorts of tree repair and maintenance, “graffiti removal, installation and maintenance of bus shelters, city park maintenance, [and] directing homeless individuals to social services”, along with helping the Atlantic City Police Department with “disorderly individuals and suspicious activity“, including panhandlers.
The SDI fund also pays $1 million a year to help fund local police work in the area, while “providing advice and information to tourists“.
Revel Casino Versus New Jersey Regulators
In short, the SID is a key contributor to helping maintaining the city’s social services and public image, which in turn helps draw more tourists and gamblers. Casinos are expected to make payments into the fund, because it helps the city and helps their own businesses.
The lien over the Special Improvement District fees is just the latest in a series of disputes. The building’s owner, Glenn Straub, has been confrontational with New Jersey regulators, a stance which has not produced results. Throughout his three years as principal owner of the Revel Building, Glenn Straub has shown a high level of litigiousness and an unwillingness to follow the rules other casino operators follow.
Glenn Straub Criticizes New Jersey Regulators
When asked about paying Revel Casino’s PILOT taxes and Special Improvement District fees earlier this year, Straub told NorthJersey.com, “I’d be broke. They’re trying to make me do what my predecessors did. That’s why they’re bankrupt and out of business. They don’t know how to not rape you. It’s like when you come to New Jersey, you have to take all your clothes off and burn all your money.”
Glenn Straub said earlier this year he would stop paying the quarterly PILOT tax bill on the former Revel Building, which he renamed TEN Building last year. Straub did not suggest that the unpaid taxes were due to an inability to receive a casino license and alcohol license, but Straub complained about New Jersey’s regulators during interviews at the same time.
Revel Casino’s Unpaid PILOT Taxes
Instead, Glenn Straub said that he said the tax rate he had to pay under the “Payment In Lieu of Taxes” (PILOT) program were unfair, because his casino was shuttered due to lack of licensing. In February 2017, Straub noted that his casino had been closed for business “nearly three years” and should have taxes assessed as if it was “an abandoned building“.
The New Jersey Casino Control Commission noted at the time that the Revel Building’s owner need to pay his share of the PILOT taxes, whether the building was open for business or not, which he had done in 2015 and 2016. Based on the previous year’s payments, it was estimated Glenn Straub owed about $1.5 million in taxes at the time.
Casino Property Tax Stabilization Act
Tax assessment was a key factor in the “Casino Property Tax Stabilization Act”, better known as the PILOT bill. For years, Atlantic City casinos paid property tax assessments in the traditional way, with a reassessment every year. The casinos paid their taxes, then filed tax appeals asking for reassessments.
That led to costly legal fees for New Jersey and the Atlantic City casinos, as they squabbled over the rate of taxation in the court. The property values of Atlantic City casinos continued to go down year-after-year, so the casinos would win appeals, requiring the state and Atlantic City to pay back the casinos. At a point, Atlantic City owed Borgata $170 million in taxes it had paid, but should not have.
Borgata’s Tax Reassessments
As an example, Borgata was assessed as a $900 million casino, but the tax appeals reassassed its value at $650 million. Thus, Borgata paid a wildly higher tax rate than it should have, because competitors (like Revel Casino) continued to shut their doors, lowering property values for all the AC casinos. With fewer tax revenues from property taxes and cratered jobs market, Atlantic City simply did not have the money to pay back casinos like Borgata.
In 2016, the New Jersey State Legislature passed Casino Property Tax Stabilization Act, to avoid the problem in the future. Borgata and the other 6 Atlantic City casinos would have a set tax payment each year, so they could plan future business with costs set. New Jersey and Atlantic City had a hedge against the lowering of property taxes, if more casinos closed. Both sides avoided costly legal fees.
Glenn Straub’s Problem with the SID
In Glenn Straub’s mind, he gains no advantage in paying the Special Improvement District. The NJ Supreme Court ruling likely will force Glenn Straub to make his SID payments. $65,000 in fees is a pittance compared to the $82 million investment Straub already has paid, especially when one considers the additional $30 million he paid to buy out ACR Energy Partners and the several million he’s paid in property taxes already.
Ironically, June 15 was the day that former Revel Casino was supposed to open at least 500 hotel rooms. For the past two years, June 15 was supposed to be the grand opening date for the TEN Hotel. Once again, Glenn Straub’s legal and regulatory issues have caused a deadline to pass.
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