ATLANTIC CITY — The Miss America Competition, with origins in the city that date back nearly 100 years, may still have a future here.

Just not if it comes with a $4 million annual price tag.

Miss America’s latest three-year, $12.5 million contract with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority expired after this year’s pageant on Sept. 9, and officials said they are not willing to provide millions of dollars in subsidies to keep the competition in the city.

The Miss America Organization has not responded to request for comment.

Both Mayor Frank Gilliam and CRDA Executive Director Matt Doherty said the current subsidy is too much for the state agency.

“I don’t believe that Miss America should be $4.5 (million). I don’t think that we should pay that,” Gilliam said Wednesday. “I think that there’s a place for her if they’re willing to truly, in my opinion, reconfigure how the pageant (operates) and how the event is going to be.”

Gilliam, whose elected position affords him a seat on the 17-member executive board of CRDA, said the authority needs to be making “more prudent financial decisions,” regardless of the entity receiving funds.

The competition’s historic home at Boardwalk Hall is not the right venue either, the mayor said.

He said the high cost of overhead at the venue needs to be addressed by the competition’s organizers.

Doherty said negotiations with the Miss America Organization would begin in the “near future.”

“CRDA was happy to partner with Miss America to host the 2019 competition held in Atlantic City earlier this month,” Doherty said. “It is premature to discuss the future of Miss America in Atlantic City.”

Asked if CRDA would be comfortable allocating the amount of money it has in the past to bring Miss America back, Doherty said, “No.”

The reasoning behind CRDA’s cautious approach to Miss America’s future is twofold.

The first is a lack of available funding due to a redirection of casino investment alternative taxes following a 2016 legislative amendment. The action diverted the 1.25 percent revenue tax to pay down Atlantic City’s debt until 2026.

The IAT was among the primary funding sources for CRDA. Other sources of funding include portions of a luxury tax levied on casino and noncasino entities in the city, as well as room and parking fees.

The second reason is increased scrutiny of the authority’s financial systems following the Sept. 11 release of a critical state performance audit. The audit specifically highlighted the two most recent MAO contracts as examples of fiscal mismanagement by the authority.

CRDA approved a three-year contract to the MAO in May 2013 to fund the 2014, 2015 and 2016 competitions. At the conclusion of the contract, CRDA paid $6.8 million to subsidize 50 percent of the competition’s total cost over those three years, according to the state audit.

In February 2016, CRDA entered into a second contract with the MAO that guaranteed payments totaling $12.5 million through the 2019 competition.

The recently expired agreement represented an 80 percent increase from the prior contract cost, according to the audit. CRDA approved $4.325 million in April for the 2019 pageant.

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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