Golden Nugget to sue over Atlantic City tax aid plan, says it hurts smaller casinos

Government And Institutions Associated Press

An Atlantic City casino that says its taxes would rise dramatically under a proposed tax assistance bill designed to help save the struggling seaside resort town says it will sue to block the plan "and blow this whole thing up."

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The Golden Nugget said Thursday its calculations of the amount each casino would pay under a proposed payment in lieu of taxes drastically raises taxes for it, Resorts and Bally's — three of the city's smaller casinos — while giving huge tax breaks to big casinos owned or soon to be owned by billionaire Carl Icahn and gambling giant Caesars Entertainment.

The casino's general counsel, Steve Scheinthal, told The Associated Press the bill sponsored by state Senate President Steve Sweeney unfairly hurts the smaller casinos.

"This is Robin Hood taking from the poor to give to the rich," Scheinthal said. "It takes our taxes from $4.7 million to $8.1 million. We're not happy. We are going to go to court and blow this whole thing up."

He said Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta will seek a court order blocking the legislation if Gov. Chris Christie signs it.

Scheinthal said he spoke with Sweeney's staff, which assured him that an amendment introduced in a state Senate committee Monday would help protect the casino. The amendment would give a tax credit to any casino whose payments under the alternative tax plan would be higher than their 2014 taxes.

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A spokesman for Sweeney had no immediate comment, beyond questioning the validity of the Golden Nugget's calculations. A Caesars Entertainment spokeswoman declined comment.

Scheinthal said the casino's legal staff came up with the projected tax obligations for each of Atlantic City's eight casinos using the formula called for in the bill. The staff used the 2014 tax bills of each casino to calculate the numbers for each casino, calling them "pretty darn good" calculations.

The casino calculated the tax obligations for the other seven casinos as follows based on a $120 million collective payment from all eight — an amount that would begin in the third year of the program after two years of $150 million payments:

— Harrah's, which was charged $31.8 million in taxes this year, would pay $20.9 million, a savings of $10.8 million over 13 years.

— The Trump Taj Mahal, which is being taken over by Icahn and was charged $27.6 million this year, would pay $17.8 million a year, a savings of $9.8 million.

— Tropicana, also owned by Icahn, was charged $22.7 million this year and would pay $13.7 million, a savings of $9 million.

— Caesars, which was charged $20.9 million this year, would pay $12 million a year, a savings of $8.9 million.

— The Borgata, which was charged $30.9 million this year, would pay $28.2 million, a savings of $2.7 million.

— Bally's, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment and was charged $8.3 million this year, would pay $10.9 million, an increase of $2.6 million.

— Resorts, which was charged $4 million this year, would pay $8.2 million, an increase of $4.1 million, the largest of any Atlantic City casino.

In a brief interview Monday after the committee vote, Sweeney said the credit of reinvestment taxes would help the casinos whose taxes were projected to increase under the program.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC