casino revenue
Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Staff photo by Ben Fogletto

ATLANTIC CITY - Two trade union presidents and a competing casino executive said Monday they support a plan to give Revel Entertainment Group significant state tax breaks to help complete the massive casino project.

Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., said tax incentives for Revel would have to be accompanied by broader regulatory reform benefiting Atlantic City's entire casino industry.

"We're hoping that the completion of Revel is good for the city, so in that regard, whatever it takes, I want to see it happen," said Juliano, whose company operates Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump Marina Hotel Casino.

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Juliano noted that at the same time, the casinos hope to work with the state on other ways to keep the Atlantic City gaming industry financially viable. Casinos will push for regulatory reform, a stable casino tax rate and changes to the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

"Those are the types of things that are coming, and we hope the industry is taken seriously," Juliano said.

The state is considering allowing a 75 percent abatement on Revel's sales and room taxes for the first 20 years of the casino's operation. The company insists the government assistance would improve its standing with potential financiers and play an important role in opening the South Inlet casino on time. The project is currently slated to open in 2011.

The tax proposal, known as tax increment financing, has seen stiff opposition from the city's largest casino union, Local 54 of UNITE-HERE. The labor group's president, Bob McDevitt, recently organized a petition opposing a city ordinance moving the plan forward. Union members submitted the petition to the city Friday with hopes of prompting a citywide vote on the measure.

McDevitt calls the plan "corporate welfare," insisting Revel is forcing a bankrupt city and state to build its casino, only to watch the company reap the benefits.

Local trades unions criticized McDevitt Monday for his effort, adding to accusations that his union is opposing the effort to pressure Revel into buckling over private labor negotiations.

"McDevitt's got another agenda going there," said Will Pauls, president of the Ironworkers Local 350. "For the city overall, we've got to get Revel done. We just have to get it done."

Pauls declined to speak specifically about the state proposal because he had not fully digested the details.

"My main priority is my 2,000 workers. We need to put them to work," said Jim Kehoe, head of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 322 union in Winslow Township, Camden County. "Whatever Revel needs for that project to go forward, we'll support it."

McDevitt argues the casino will likely lead to shutting down two casinos after it opens, creating "a wash" in terms of the hotel rooms the businesses offer.

McDevitt's theory is backed by a report by gaming analyst Joel H. Simkins, of Macquarie Securities, released this summer that projected Revel's opening to close at least two gaming halls. Trump Marina Hotel Casino, the Claridge Tower at Bally's Atlantic City, Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort are smaller properties that analysts believe are in danger of closing.

However, the report also said the potential result would be a positive because it would eliminate "the low-end as well as the more parasitic casinos that force other operators to drive down their margins."

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