ATLANTIC CITY — State lawmakers Friday called on the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to pull a $4 million state subsidy from the Miss America Organization in the wake of lewd comments made in emails by pageant CEO Sam Haskell.
On Thursday, dick clark productions cut ties with the Miss America Organization after internal emails surfaced of Haskell, board members and other staff ridiculing past winners’ looks, weight, intelligence and sex lives.
Without dick clark productions, its TV partner, coupled with the dwindling support by the CRDA to spend $4 million per year to keep the pageant in Atlantic City, the Miss America Organization’s future here is in doubt.
State Assemblymen Chris Brown and Vince Mazzeo, state Sen. Colin Bell, and Atlantic City Mayor-elect Frank Gilliam have called on the CRDA to get out of the final year of the agency’s lucrative contract for the pageant.
CRDA officials are reviewing their options regarding the contract.
“Renewing the multimillion-dollar Miss America contract with CRDA was never the right move,” said Mazzeo, D-Atlantic. “It’s time to end the handout and move on. Atlantic City has too many good things happening in the future to be stuck on an event that has only brought in a respectful return in the distant past.”
In February 2016, Miss America and the state agency agreed to a three-year deal to keep the pageant in the resort through 2018. Under the contract, Miss America receives about $11.9 million in state subsidy during the life of the contract. When the contract was approved, supporters touted the amount of the national television exposure the city would get from the telecast.
“The CRDA finds the reports of the Miss America Organization and the behavior of its leadership troubling,” Christopher Howard, executive director of the CRDA, said in a statement Friday. “The CRDA is working with our legal counsel to undertake an immediate review of its contract with the Miss America Organization and dick clark productions to assess what steps we may need to take.”
Gilliam, currently a city councilman, said the lack of a television contract is a deal-breaker for him.
“It’s a great opportunity to pull out of the contract,” Gilliam said. “Now that the television has gone, it’s not what we are paying for. I’m not one of the biggest fans of Miss America, because we don’t get back compared to what we give.”
As part of the contract, the Miss America Organization is required to promote the resort during the opening of the pageant’s ABC telecasts.
In exchange for the CRDA’s support of the pageant, dick clark productions, the producers of the event, agreed to include a live performance in Atlantic City in each “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show through 2019. But the shows never materialized.
The New Year’s program, broadcast on ABC, garnered 59 million viewers last year. “Scheduling conflicts and other considerations,” kept the resort from being included in the last broadcast, according to the CRDA.
“The CRDA’s decision to bring back Miss America to Atlantic City initially held promise the pageant would promote the city as a destination resort, but in light of the limited benefit we’ve received thus far and without a TV contract, it’s hard to justify spending any more public dollars to subsidize the pageant, particularly when the money could be better spent on other projects,” said Brown, R-Atlantic.
While politicians call for the pageant to leave the city, Lindsey Giannini, Miss New Jersey 2015, said the city should not turn its back on the pageant.
“After everything that has come to light recently, pulling the Miss America Pageant from Atlantic City would be detrimental to the thousands of women who compete each year in an effort to represent their state at Miss America,” Giannini said. “These women need scholarship support now more than ever, and Atlantic City turning their back on them goes against everything we all stand for.”