A proposed bill would create a politically appointed advisory board to recommend consolidation of the state agencies regulating the casino gaming industry.
Except there does not seem to be much support, or an urgent need, for such a measure.
The legislation would create a nine-member New Jersey Casino Oversight Consolidation Commission to study and recommend ways to consolidate the Casino Control Commission, the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Casino Revenue Fund Advisory Board.
Only the proposed revenue fund advisory board would be located outside of Atlantic City.
The CCC declined to comment on any pending legislation, while the DGE and the CRDA did not respond to a request for comment.
The bill has been referred to the state Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee each time it has been introduced (2015, 2016 and 2018) but has never moved. The Office of Legislative Services has never conducted a cost-benefit analysis or fiscal review of the legislation. And the bill’s primary — and only — sponsor, former Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Bergen and Passaic, left office in April.
Eustace said the primary reason the bill was introduced was to find ways to reduce spending and increase efficiency for agencies that may have redundant responsibilities, pointing to similar legislation introduced that would have studied the consolidation of highway and port authorities in the state.
Eustace said the proposal was also an attempt to address failings in the industry that he believed contributed to the closing of five properties in two years’ time.
“It didn’t seem like anybody was getting anywhere with any long-term fixes with the casino issues,” Eustace said. “(It seemed) that we were just throwing money down the same rabbit hole.”
Dan Heneghan is an industry consultant who previously covered the casino industry for The Press of Atlantic City, from its inception in 1978, before serving as the public information officer for the Casino Control Commission from 1996 until his retirement earlier this year.
Heneghan said consolidation would not provide any savings to taxpayers because the budget funding is generated from gaming revenue, not tax dollars.
Any reduction in spending would roll over to the next fiscal year rather than return to the state’s General Fund.
Heneghan also said there has “already been a dramatic streamlining” of the regulatory structure of casino gaming in recent years.
“The changes made back in 2011 made extraordinary changes in the way that New Jersey regulates the gaming industry,” he said.
Some of that legislation altered the functions, duties and scope of responsibilities granted to the state regulatory agencies. One bill gave CRDA land use and zoning authority over the defined Tourism District in Atlantic City while also merging the authority with the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority and the Special Improvement District. A second bill moved a handful of regulatory functions performed by the Casino Control Commission to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Another bill established alternative methods of issuing casino licenses.
Steve Norton, who is also an industry consultant and spent more than three decades as a casino executive in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas, said the functions and responsibilities of casino regulatory agencies, specifically the commission and the division, should remain separate.
“The CCC and the DGE do different things,” he said. “They are very different (operations). Nevada has never done that. ... They both serve a purpose. I don’t see an easy way to combine the two.”
Eustace, who was a supporter of expanding New Jersey casino gaming outside of Atlantic City, said he believes the main reason the proposal never received any traction was because of where in the state the idea originated.
“I’m sure it’s because I’m from the north and any ideas we have about casinos got stepped on,” he said.