TRENTON — Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, is set to introduce a resolution Thursday that will detail how revenue from North Jersey casinos would be used if the state’s voters approve gambling outside of Atlantic City in November.
Caputo told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack, if approved, might be taxed at 35 to 40 percent while a costlier one in Jersey City could pay 15 to 20 percent.
Voters will decide whether or not to approve as many as two casinos in North Jersey during the Nov. 8 general election. The ballot question states the new casinos must be in separate counties and at least 72 miles from Atlantic City, where four casinos closed in 2014 and another, Trump Taj Mahal, is set to close Oct. 10.
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“Transparency and clarity is critical for residents and all parties involved in the North Jersey casino debate, especially as we move closer to November elections,” Caputo said. “We have seen and heard many different opinions on this issue, both negative and positive. However, it is important that the Legislature’s intent for any funding coming out of a casino built in the north is spelled out clearly and as definitively as possible.”
Deutsche Bank said last year that North Jersey casinos could generate $500 million in gambling revenue. A 50 percent tax rate would put $250 million in the state’s coffers, which would have to be divided among all the recipients. Atlantic City casinos pay an effective tax rate of 9.25 percent on gross gambling revenue.
Before Caputo mentioned the possible tax rates Tuesday, Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, called Caputo’s resolution a gimmick, saying it “is simply the same old song with a different verse that still fails to provide a specific tax rate and fails to answer how cannibalizing Atlantic City’s gaming market by causing the loss of another 14,000 jobs and the closure of more casinos will somehow help Atlantic County’s working families and retirees.”
A portion of the proposed North Jersey casino revenue would be dedicated to providing job placement for workers who lost their jobs when casinos closed, according to the proposed resolution. Money also will be provided for continued promotional support for Atlantic City as a destination resort, the resolution states.
Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
“Right now we have no idea what the tax rate for the (North Jersey) casinos is going to be,” Whelan said Monday. “If you don’t know what the tax rate is, then you don’t know what Atlantic City’s cut is going to be.”
The resolution includes guidelines for choosing a casino location, selecting licensed operators and the administration of programs to be funded by state revenues.
The revenues are expected to be used for fund the state’s senior tax freeze program, Meals on Wheels program and Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled; public space and transportation improvements; and Atlantic City recovery initiatives, but the exact amount of how much each program would receive has not been decided.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said the failure to disclose the referendum’s full details and implications have “doomed this misguided ballot question.”
“This is just further evidence that this disastrous referendum is on life support because residents across the state have concluded this is a bad deal for New Jersey and Atlantic County, which would face the loss of 10,000 more jobs,” Mazzeo said.
“We’ve lagged behind in terms of being transparent,” Caputo said Tuesday. “There’s no use kidding anybody about that. The tax rate needs to be established.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.