On Monday, three-fifths of each house of the New Jersey legislature passed resolutions that will put a question on the ballot in November asking voters if they want to expand casino gaming outside of Atlantic City. As we previously posted here and here, the North Jersey casino proposal will allow for two casinos to be located at least 72 miles from Atlantic City, in separate counties. The minimum investment required for a North Jersey casino will be $1 billion. Current Atlantic City casino owners will be given an exclusive period of 60 days to submit bids for the two North Jersey casino licenses before bidding is opened up broadly. Current owners of Atlantic City casinos may partner with other investors/developers to submit a bid for a North Jersey casino license.
If New Jersey voters pass the referendum in November, the legislature will then need to adopt enabling legislation. This legislation will provide the details for the bidding process and the tax rate for North Jersey casinos. Atlantic City casinos currently pay an effective tax rate of 9.25% on gross gaming revenue. North Jersey casinos likely will be required to pay a significantly higher rate, perhaps in excess of 50%.
We will provide updates as developments occur.
Under a compromise reached by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly leadership the proposed state Constitutional amendment will be put to a vote in both bodies which would allow two additional casinos in the northern part of the state. Under the compromise current Atlantic City casino license holders would have and inside track and have six months to submit proposals to build the new casinos, and their plans must call for investing at least $1 billion in each facility.
If that criteria isn’t met, those without Atlantic City licenses can bid to build the new North Jersey casinos. They would also be required to invest at least $1 billion for each facility
It appears the proposed amendments will not be voted on in this current legislative session which ends on Tuesday, January 12, 2016 and 12:00 noon, but rather in the new session which begins thereafter. As such both the Assembly and Senate will be required to pass the amended proposal with 3/5th majorities for the proposed amendment to be on the November, 2016 ballot.
Just days following a proposed amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution proposed in the State Senate and as detailed here , the New Jersey Assembly offered its own proposed Amendment to the Constitution which would also authorize up to two additional casinos in North Jersey.
Both Amendments propose no more the two casinos, each located in different counties and outside a 75 mile radius of Atlantic City. The 75 mile radius restriction eliminates Monmouth Park Racetrack as a possible site for casino expansion.
The primary differences are as follows;
- Applicant eligibility: The Assembly version of the proposed amendment allows one of the two licenses to be awarded to an applicant with no current ownership or ties to an existing Atlantic City casino. The Senate version of the amendment limits eligibility to (1) a currently licensed Atlantic City casino operating as of December 11, 2015; or (2) any person licensed as a principal owner (yet undefined) of a holder of a New Jersey casino license that was operating a casino which was conducting gambling on December 11, 2015 if that principal owner also holds a valid license to own and operate a casino in another jurisdiction with licensing standards similar to those in New Jersey. The Assembly version only applies the Senate version’s proposed eligibility requirements to the “initial license.” The current Atlantic City casino tie-in eligibility requirement presumably does not apply to the second license awarded.
- Tax Allocation to Atlantic City. The Assembly version of the proposed Constitutional Amendment allocates 35% of state tax revenuers from the two new casinos for purposes if the recovery, stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City. The Senate version allocate 49% of such tax revenue for the recovery, stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City.
The Senate and Assembly must agree on an identical version of the proposed Amendment which would have to be approved with 3/5 votes by both houses of the NJ Legislature or majority votes, twice over two years. The votes have to be completed at least 90 days before going on the ballot of a state-wide referendum to amend the NJ State Constitution.