Budget Shortfall Looms in Atlantic City Due to PILOT Bill

View of Atlantic City Beach

The crippling effect of the coronavirus pandemic to Atlantic City’s casinos will have a direct impact in the Garden State’s 2021 budget. That’s because the casinos’ total direct revenue is the basis of their annual payment to the city based on the 2016 PILOT bill.

Under the bill, which was enacted in 2016, casinos make annual payments to the city based on revenue rather than pay property taxes based on property value. Last year, Atlantic City’s casinos had a total revenue of $3.2B and they made a total of $150M payments to the city in 2019.

But with the pandemic halting casino operations for four months starting March 2020 and the imposition of health and safety restrictions that limited gaming operations since they were allowed to reopen, the casinos in Monopoly City are unlikely to duplicate last year’s performance.

Unlikely to Duplicate 2019 Performance

From January to July 2020, Atlantic City’s nine casinos have reported a total gaming revenue of $1.2B. That’s well off the $1.845B they made through the first seven months of 2019. Also, the casinos reported an average revenue increase of 11.48% per month beginning August 2019 to the end of the year.

But with the current restrictions, it’s not expected that they will overperform their previous month’s income and because of that, they are expected to come up very short of last year’s totals. Casino win has been down by more than 58% through July and is not expected to pick up with the prohibitions and restrictions currently in place.

Need For Tangible Solution

The PILOT Bill was passed to put an end to the casinos’ property tax appeals filed before the city. It was seen as a means to stabilize Atlantic City’s tax base. The bill was projected to bring a steady $120M in annual payments from the city’s nine casinos and it had been working before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Sen. Chris Brown (R-Atlantic) who voted for the PILOT bill in 2016, recognizes the need to modify the legislation. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), a prime sponsor of the PILOT bill, recognized the need to do something but noted that the city has to “be careful on how to navigate” through the looming shortfall. Meanwhile, the absence of a tangible solution has made locals fear of an imminent increase in property taxes or a decrease in municipal services.