After a July 13 hearing, a Superior Court Judge indicated he will decide in the next 30 days whether the state has to pay Atlantic County lost revenue as a result of an amended law that changed how payments are calculated for an alternative to property taxes. The amendment removed online gaming and sports betting from the revenues used to calculate the annual cost to casinos from the PILOT law, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes.
The program, created in 2016, offered an alternative tax formula for casinos in exchange for a cessation of tax appeals filed by them.
But the amendment decreased the amount the county would receive each year, leading to a lawsuit against the state. Ronald Ricchio, an attorney for Atlantic County, argued during the hearing the amended law violated a 2018 settlement, and therefore violated that court order.
“This goes right directly to the constitutional separation of powers. It’s the executive and the legislative branch essentially thumbing its nose to the judiciary, and it doesn’t work that way,” Ricchio said, as reported by the New Jersey Monitor.
The amended law could cost the county as much as $25 million through 2026, when the PILOT payment ends. PILOT payments would fall $5 million short this year, Ricchio said. The payments made in February and May were $2.4 million short of what the county would have received under the previous version of the law.
The county should receive $4,725,000, the difference between what Atlantic County would have received in 2022 had the law not changed, plus any attorney fees incurred since the litigation began, according to The Press of Atlantic City. Those expenses have already surpassed $300,000, according to James Ferguson, county counsel.
Any decision in this case is likely to be appealed. Attorneys for the state have already attempted to move the casino dispute into the Appellate Division, but that bid was unsuccessful.