Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday he was appointing former Cape May County Sheriff James Plousis as chairman of the Casino Control Commission, replacing current Chairman Matt Levinson.
Levinson, the son of Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, has been the chairman and CEO of the commission since 2012. He did not respond to a request for comment.
But Dennis Levinson said Thursday the reason his son was not reappointed was Atlantic County is suing the state over its share of the payments in lieu of property taxes, or PILOT, that Atlantic City casinos are locked into for 10 years.
“This is how it works, and it’s not a big surprise,” the elder Levinson said of New Jersey’s government under Christie. “If you go along with everything they want, they take care of you.”
Calls to Christie’s spokesman were not returned Thursday.
Plousis, is currently the head of the N.J. Parole Board. He has also served as the U.S. marshal of New Jersey, after being appointed by then-president George W. Bush. Plousis could not be reached for comment.
Levinson and Christie have been sparring since spring, when Christie backed off a handshake deal to give Atlantic County 13.5 percent of the PILOT.
Instead, the county has received 10.4 percent of the payments, which is $4 million less than what the county expected to get each year from the casinos. The lesser percentage raises the likelihood of tax increases for county taxpayers in municipalities outside Atlantic City, something that has angered mayors.
Despite the smaller percentage, the county is still receiving more money than it did from the same properties last year, according to previous reports.
The county will receive nearly $12.5 million from the casinos included in the PILOT program. That’s about $518,000 more than the $11.9 million the county got from those same properties in 2016.
The county was promised the 13.5 percent from Christie during a press conference in 2015. The state backed off the promise in the spring, claiming the county did not “step up to the plate” in helping the city during its financial crisis.
But Levinson said the county offered to collect trash, provide meals on wheels, and buy the city’s municipal utilities authority for $100 million.
“(Matt) was collateral damage in this, and we expected it,” Levinson said. “But Matt told me (before the lawsuit was filed) that he would be disappointed in me if I didn’t do what I believed was right for the county.”
The commission, described as somewhat of a judicial panel, has up to three members appointed by the governor of New Jersey and is in charge of licensing New Jersey casinos and their key employees.
The members serve five-year terms and can only be removed for cause. By law, no more than two commissioners can be of the same political party, according to the commissions website.
Matt Levinson’s term as chairman expired in August, but he has remained on while a new chairman was appointed.
Levinson was re-nominated by the late Sen. Jim Whelan in February, but he never got a hearing in the state Senate and was not appointed by Christie.