ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ The agency created to redirect casino revenue to revitalize downtrodden areas in the city and around New Jersey has given more than 20 percent of the money back to the casinos to subsidize improvements and expansion, according to published reports.
According to a report in Sunday’s New York Times, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, created in 1984, has given $400 million to the casinos for projects such as:
-The construction of 13,000 new hotel rooms, including 800 in a tower under construction at the Trump Taj Mahal;
-An IMAX theater at the Tropicana Casino and Resort
-A House of Blues music club;
-“Parking lot beautification” at the Showboat and road signs for Resorts and the Taj Mahal;
-$4.5 million toward new express train service from Manhattan to Atlantic City that is being largely funded by the Borgata, Caesars and Harrah’s casinos.
Critics of the policy include David Sciarra, who was working as a deputy public advocate when he helped write the legislation that created the reinvestment authority.
“It was not set up to finance industry-related projects because the industry clearly has the resources to do that,” Sciarra said. “This is a betrayal of the very promise that was made to the citizens: That the casinos would have a social responsibility to invest a small percentage of their revenue through the CRDA to help make sure residents, especially the poor, had better housing and neighborhoods.”
Under laws established by the state legislature in 1984, the casinos pay 8 percent of their gross revenues to the state’s Casino Revenue Fund, which pays for programs to assist the elderly and people with disabilities. They must also choose between paying another 2.5 percent into the fund or 1.25 percent to the reinvestment authority. All have chosen the latter.
The reinvestment authority has paid out $1.8 billion since its formation. Counting the money given back to the casinos, Atlantic City receives more than 80 percent of the authority’s largesse. Yet blocks of run-down buildings and seedy motels catering to drug dealers and prostitutes still sit in the shadow of the casinos.