ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s casino industry paid $237 million in taxes last year, a fraction of what the industry pays in other states.

Casinos in the city pay an 8 percent tax on gross gaming revenue plus an additional community investment alternative tax of 1.25 percent of gross gaming revenue.

The rate is substantially lower than that paid in surrounding states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 2016, Pennsylvania’s 12 operating casinos paid more than $1.379 billion in taxes, according to a report from the American Gaming Association. New York’s nine operating casinos paid more than $888 million in casino taxes. Maryland, despite having only five gaming properties, took in $452.9 million, more than double what New Jersey received in casino tax revenue.

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“You guys have been ripped off by the casino industry for 30 years,” Jeff Gural, owner of the Meadowlands, said of New Jersey’s casino tax rate. “I wrote the casino laws in New York. The tax rate here is a fiasco. Basically what has happened in Atlantic City is that operators have taken profits from here and built competition for Atlantic City.”

In Pennsylvania, slot machine revenue is taxed at 55 percent, while table games are taxed at 16 percent. In New York, the casino tax rate ranges between 31 percent and 41 percent, according to a report by the American Gaming Association. Maryland has a 20 percent tax on table game revenue and a 50 percent to 61 percent tax on video lottery terminals.

Casino revenue in the state funds programs including prescription drug subsidies, housing assistance and transportation.

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Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said something has to be done to bring the casino tax code in line with surrounding states. In 2015, Brown proposed a plan that would change the casino tax law to include revenue streams such as food, beverage and entertainment. Currently, only gross gaming revenue is taxable. The plan would have generated an additional $70 million in tax revenue.

“I simply believe casinos should pay their fair share of taxes to ensure we don’t place an additional, unfair tax burden on our working families,” Brown said.

Concerns over the state casino tax rate are nothing new. In 2003, then Gov. Jim McGreevey proposed a 10 percent tax on casino revenue to raise more than $90 million to cover a $5 billion budget gap.

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Over the years, state casino representatives have said the state needs a lower tax rate because they are required to build first-class casino hotels with at least 500 rooms and help the city become a resort, tourist and convention destination.

“I think it’s right with a single-digit tax rate,” said Michael Pollock, managing director of casino gaming analysts Spectrum Gaming Group. “It’s an enormous competitive advantage to the state to both existing and potential properties.”

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said now’s not the time to increase the casino tax rate.

“At a time when Atlantic City is on the rebound, I don’t believe raising taxes on the city’s biggest industry and employer will benefit our region,” Mazzeo said. “Now with the PILOT program in place, we’ve stopped the tax-appeal lottery and stabilized the ratable base so we can continue to allow Atlantic City to prosper.”

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Gural’s plans to open a casino in the state took a major hit in November when voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to allow casinos in North Jersey. If the ballot question had passed, Gural would have looked to partner with Hard Rock International to build a 650,000-square-foot property with 200 gambling tables and 5,000 slot machines at the Meadowlands. While Hard Rock has since shifted its focus to Atlantic City, Gural still holds out hope a casino will be built up north.

“Look at a map of the places that casinos have,” Gural said. “Mississippi, Iowa, Rhode Island, West Virginia — these are dippy-do states. Somebody has given these guys (casino owners) a printing press.”

Contact: 609-272-7046 NHuba@pressofac.com Twitter @acpresshuba

Started working in newsrooms when I was 17 years old. Spent 15 years working for Gannett New Jersey before coming to The Press of Atlantic City in April 2015.

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