New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he will lift capacity restrictions for New Jersey casinos starting on May 19. Casinos will be able to operate at 100% capacity, though masks will remain mandatory and everyone should still follow six-foot social distancing guidelines:
Murphy has tied reopening to the pace of vaccinations and set a goal of vaccinating 4.7 million adults — about 70% of the adult population — by the end of June. More than 3.1 million New Jerseyans, or about half the eligible residents, are now fully vaccinated, and on Monday Murphy launched a public awareness campaign aimed at reaching the rest. The push includes an offer for a free beer from 12 breweries to those who roll up their sleeves and get a shot this month.
Zack Snyder’s latest movie, “Army of the Dead,” needed full access to a casino floor for its stunts and visual effects, so they used a New Jersey casino space for it. The crew filmed at the Showboat Atlantic City and the former Atlantic Club casino in the fall of 2019, hiring some local talent as extras and bringing a financial windfall to the area:
The production company spent about $27 million in New Jersey during preparation, filming and wrapping up, according to Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission.
“The production was enormously complicated,” said David Schoner, the associate director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, in a statement, “and could only be accomplished by our agency working closely with the city of Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Police Department and Heather Colache of Meet AC.”
… About 200 cast and crew members worked on this mega production, including locally cast extras, who portrayed zombies, Gorelick said.
After more than half a year since filing their lawsuit, the Borgata and MGM Resorts have dropped their litigation against Ocean Casino Resort. The Borgata had accused Ocean of poaching top marketing executives and using secret details to gain a financial edge in the New Jersey casino market. Both parties have agreed to a settlement:
MGM Resorts International, which owns the Borgata, said in a statement Friday it has dropped its litigation against Atlantic City’s Ocean Casino Resort, following a settlement agreed to by both parties.
A court filing gave no details of the terms of the agreement other than that it was reached “amicably.”
Ocean has denied any wrongdoing.
But MGM Resorts said in a statement that, “Ocean has agreed to honor Borgata’s restrictive covenants, including its non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality provisions that are designed to protect Borgata’s trade secrets.”
Ocean would only say it is glad the matter has been resolved.
A new bill will restore the civil service protections of public workers, which were lost when the state took broad oversight authority over Atlantic City in 2016. The bill will still extend the state takeover of the city government for another four years, but it passed the Assembly State and Local Government Committee unanimously:
What the bill does: When New Jersey took control of Atlantic City, public workers lost their civil service status protections, which enabled them to file grievances. The bill that advanced unanimously on Wednesday restores that status and interest arbitration rights as well as extends the state takeover.
What they are saying: [Assemblymember Vince] Mazzeo said a number of labor disputes are now being settled at the court level instead of through arbitration, and some of the cases are costing the city millions of dollars.
A new bill has been introduced that would change the state’s tax structure — from having casinos’ property tax bills increase as their gross gaming revenue increases. The pandemic fueled a boom in the New Jersey online casino space, but the city’s casinos have to partner with third-party vendors, creating a lopsided calculation of their property tax liability under the 2016 PILOT bill. The new bill proposes that casinos no longer pay property taxes on a sliding scale:
A new bill would remove internet and sports betting revenue from the PILOT calculations, among other changes. The amount of new PILOT payments could go up or down in future years based on factors including a casino’s financial performance.
Casinos would need to make payments of $5 million collectively each year to Atlantic City for five years. Some of it also would go to a state redevelopment agency, as well as to a Safe and Clean Fund and an infrastructure fund, intended to finance local public improvement projects in Atlantic City. And some would go to the school system and county government.
The changes could provide savings for a majority of the casinos from what they would need to pay otherwise starting in 2022, although casino executives would not reveal the amount they expect to pay under the proposed changes.
In a bid to diversify the city’s economy, The Atlantic City Restart and Recovery Working Group has suggested that sales from legalized recreational marijuana could help pay for city improvements. This could potentially work in conjunction with the casino industry to rebuild the Boardwalk and help people in underserved communities:
“The state should consider the opportunities that may be created by new initiatives, including the legalization of recreational use marijuana, as potential sources of political and financial support for the efforts to restart and recover Atlantic City,” the report said.
… The report called for “refreshing the structures and appearances” of those two streets.
“These are the two main thoroughfares in Atlantic City, and if these were given a new and refreshing look it could give a new facade to the City,” the report read. “This was done in Baltimore harbor and tremendous benefits were reaped by that city.”
Six months and $4.7 million later, visitors to Atlantic City casinos will get to see some improvements to the Tourism District: seven newly refurbished public bathrooms along the Boardwalk. The goal was to modernize the Boardwalk and provide better access for all:
Heating and cooling will be adjusted for the year-round locations.
Renovations included gutting existing interiors and replacing toilets, urinals, fixtures and faucets, and installing new heating, plumbing and ventilation systems.
Toilets, faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers are now touchless, and all surfaces were constructed with easy-to-clean materials, officials said. Boardwalk Ambassadors will be assigned to maintain the bathrooms.
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