Tag Archive: gambling

Casinos: A Gamble Not Worth Taking

As the New Jersey Legislature rushed to push through constitutional amendments at the end of the last session, north Jersey casino gambling did not make the cut.  Political infighting over competing plans and between potential gubernatorial candidates took center stage….
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Atlantic City Attractions

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Great read by Meir Rinde at NJSpotlight.

Is it time to question the fiscal wisdom of the Atlantic City Bailout?

The state has spent at least $1.75 billion on hundreds of infrastructure, hotel expansion, retail, entertainment, housing, and community-development projects in the city since gambling began in the late 1970s. It has additionally granted millions in low-interest loans and tax credits and reimbursements to various businesses, and paid out regular municipal and school aid. The investment has been seen as justified given that, during the same period, casinos and other businesses paid out $9 billion in taxes and other fees, according to Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian.

That level of tax revenue appears unlikely to recur over the next three decades. Four of the city’s 12 casinos shut down this year and a fifth, the Trump Taj Mahal, could close on Saturday. The casinos paid less than $215 million in state taxes and fees last year, the lowest amount since the late 1980s and less than half the $500 million they contributed at their peak in 2006.

They have also succeeded in slashing their property tax assessments in recent years, winning local tax refunds that have forced Atlantic City to jack up tax rates and take on $345 million in debt over four years. The city’s troubles are so dire that a gaming advisory commission reporting to Gov. Chris Christie is recommending that the state impose an emergency manager to slash spending and accelerate nongaming commercial development.

Serious question: Why is Seaside’s boardwalk packed to the brim with vacationers in the summer and Atlantic City’s boardwalk rarely even moderately crowded?

Time to Legalize, Regulate and Tax Statewide Gambling

The States have long been known as “laboratories of democracy.” They’re places that laws, policies and regulations get a chance to be tested out on a smaller scale before adopted nationally. In New Jersey, the same can be said for our municipalities. In the Garden State, the municipalities, with their long tradition of self-rule, are the laboratories of change, particularly controversial ones. And one of the most controversial issues in the state’s history was and remains gambling.

Gambling has played a huge part in the state’s history. Our earliest schools benefited from lotteries, and, of course, the State Constitution was amended in 1976 to allow for games of chance in Atlantic City. New Jersey Lottery machines are in every supermarket and convenience store. More recently, the state allowed online gambling.

But let’s stick with Atlantic City. In the mid-1970’s the idea of allowing gambling – heavily regulated – in that ailing city seemed to be a win-win situation for everyone involved. New Jersey’s urban cores were already in decline, and Atlantic City in particular was experiencing high rates of unemployment and crime. By placing casinos in that declining resort city, it was hoped that it would kick-start an urban turnaround. So by the late 1970’s, New Jersey attempted to create its own little version of Las Vegas along its southeastern coast. It was risky. There were good arguments on both sides for and against it. It was an experiment, and time would tell whether or not it would work.

Well, it’s 2014. How’s Atlantic City looking these days? From my perspective, and I’ve been there about twenty times in the past two years, it’s looking pretty bad. Really bad. With the exception of the sliver of casinos along the Boardwalk, the widespread infrastructural rot, the empty lots, the hundreds of young unemployed men and women in the streets at all hours…this experiment has not worked out. Atlantic City remains dangerous, downtrodden and stuck. And with new competition from casinos in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and Yonkers, New York, whatever exclusive ‘edge’ the A.C. casinos had in the region is, more or less, lost.

There are many reasons to argue why this experiment failed. Again, perhaps it’s because of the increased competition. Perhaps it’s due to the greed of the casinos, who could have shared more of their proceeds with the city and state. Perhaps it’s because Atlantic City is located way off the New York City-Philadelphia axis line that most New Jerseyans live along. Perhaps it’s for all of those reasons.

So here’s my “Hail Mary.” Open up all New Jersey for gaming, like Nevada. Let the slots and tables make their way into every community, from urban Camden to rural Newton. Nevada has had this system for decades and, utilizing their regulatory and taxation models (with some local tweaking), we could make it work. Let the dollars flow, everywhere. Let the slot machines into the racetracks and Wawa’s and Quick Checks. Our kids, who are already bombarded with plenty of vice online, won’t get hurt a bit. I doubt that local casinos will lead to the improvement or deterioration of any neighborhood. They don’t seem to have too much of an effect on neighborhoods in Nevada – or Atlantic City. And if you’re afraid of sleazy pawnbrokers and check cashers moving in to your town, look around – they’re already there. Been to Saddle Brook recently? Newark? Fair Lawn? Kearny?

All-state gambling will be sure to raise a lot of revenue. In fact, I would have 60% of all casino proceeds go directly to the state’s coffers to fund education, infrastructure and pensions. And no, I do not expect gambling revenues to transform New Jersey into a paradise; but legalized, regulated gambling will bring in revenue. Our neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania have already built casinos right on our borders. People can gamble from their own homes in places like Denville, Morristown and Cherry Hill anyway. The rulebook’s been thrown out. Enough already; the Atlantic City experiment has failed.

Let the gaming, and the revenue, begin.    

State Relying More and More on Taxes for the Stupid

Back a billion years ago in the 1970s New Jersey was in a financial crisis and decided one of the best ways out was to authorize gambling in Atlantic City and a state lottery.  

Still, the state wound up in a financial crisis again and again.

So last fall they started allowing online gambling which is generating millions.

Still, financial crisis.

And since all that gambling hasn’t amounted to much help we have a lawsuit on sports betting heading to the Supreme Court:

The state of New Jersey has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to legalize sports betting at the state’s casinos and horse racing tracks.

The appeal was filed last Wednesday on behalf of Gov. Chris Christie and the state Legislature, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), one of the law’s chief sponsors, said.

Senator Lesniak is a good liberal who fought for marriage equality, defends children in more ways than I can count, works hard to end the death penalty, supports significant gun control regulations, raising the minimum wage, etc.

But he has a bug in his craw about gambling, hoping to bring casino gambling to the Meadowlands and sports gambling to the state.  

Full disclosure: I buy lottery tickets, but only one at a time since I understand statistics.  One is enough to get the thrill of a dream, and odds don’t improve until you spend thousands and even then are quite long.

I also play blackjack and poker in Atlantic City when I’m down there, which isn’t often.  

But what the reliance on gambling for state revenue amounts to is a tax on the stupid. People who don’t have the money to gamble spend food money hoping to make it rich, all so that a few pennies of their lottery ticket or slot losses will go to schools.

It would be nice if we spent more time worrying about jobs and expanding opportunity for New Jersey residents, and not only nice but much more efficient.  More jobs at higher pay would mean more income taxes collected and less need for taxing the stupid.

Christie Vetoes Online Gaming Because Tax Rate Too Low

So apparently Chris Christie is taking his whole Republican apostate role seriously as he vetoed online gambling in New Jersey because the tax rate on winning is too low.

That’s right, the Republican hero and alleged leader of the pack for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 wants higher taxes.

Hee hee.

Christie said he would sign it if it had a 10-year trial period and a higher tax rate on casinos. He wants tax on winning raised from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Blue Jersey Focus – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald has been a rising star in New Jersey politics. He’s been the majority leader since January and prior to that was the chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. And he’s on everyone’s short list of potential challengers to Chris Christie in 2013.

I spoke with him today in his law office in Voorhees. We talked about policy, politics, and the special challenges of being a state-wide political figure from South Jersey.



Legislature: Picking Up A Head of Steam

Keep the N in NJN

The Legislature had wanted to lead the negotiations with potential NJN buyers but in a compromise it was agreed that that the State Treasurer would have the power to negotiate a deal. The Legislature retains the right of approval, but likely will face a “take it or leave it” proposition from the governor who controls the money spigot. At least the governor has shown some degree of compromise. Senate President Stephen Sweeney said that NJN could get the additional funding it needs to stay on the air while lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie come up with a plan.” Nonetheless, this “Perils of Pauline” tale continues.

Arbitration Awards

Governor Christie, who has been pushing his “Tool Kit” as a solution to high property taxes, now is quoted in the hard copy Record (page 8) of today, as saying, “There’s no silver bullet to fix it.” Thank you Mr. Governor. Christie had wanted the arbitration cap to include pension and health benefit costs, over which local entities have little control. The cap compromise excludes these two costs, allows for increases above 2% in multiyear contracts if the overall increase does not exceed 2%, and calls for the limits to go away after three years. The governor secured less “wiggle room” to fudge the cost basis of the cap and a random selection of the arbitrators. As a result Police and firefighter union contracts would be limited to 2 percent annual pay increases if they seek arbitration, although arbitration is not even available in many municipalities.

The nexus between AC and horse-racing

In order to prevent war between the North and the South spilling out into the chambers of the legislature, those supporting initiatives for Atlantic City are also agreeing to benefits for the horse-racing industry. An Assembly committee yesterday voted to legalize casino internet gambling, including on-line poker, with the understanding that as much as $30 million in tax revenue would be used to subsidize horse-racing. Nearly a dozen bills designed to revive the state horse racing and Atlantic City casino industries drew bipartisan support in a key Assembly committee in Trenton on Thursday, as legislators raced to send many of the bills to Governor Christie’s desk before the end of the year.

the hypocrisy of “dispassionate” budget cuts

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I randomly found something interesting. I stumbled onto a New York Times article about Xanadu, and here’s what our governor had to say about spending money to supplement billion-dollar projects three months ago:

With the Xanadu entertainment and shopping complex three years behind schedule and in need of an estimated $875 million to open, Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that it was time for the state to help resuscitate the project.

So using state money to save a private, unnecessary entertainment complex funded by billionaires is more important than supplementing federal funds already appropriated to add a lifeline to a failing train fleet?

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