Opinion

David Cay Johnston

A gamble down on the boardwalk

David Cay Johnston
Sep 14, 2012 15:34 UTC

ATLANTIC CITY–Americans who think more legalized gambling can ease their state and local tax burdens should take a close look at the travails of this struggling New Jersey seaside resort.

Because betting is now legal in neighboring states, gambling here is way down. The casino hotels have slashed their workforces, cut real wages and, citing falling property values, received huge property tax refunds — with more refunds likely.

The city has sold $103 million of bonds to finance casino property tax refunds, bonds that with interest will cost the average homeowner more than $2,100 over the next two decades, Michael Stinson, the city finance director, said.

The city is about to sell another $35 million in bonds, while the Press of Atlantic City reports that $40 million more may have to be borrowed next year. If all that happens the average homeowner eventually may be out more than $3,600 in added taxes.

That may well understate the added costs to local taxpayers in the next few years as the gambling business is likely to shrink even more, as Mayor Lorenzo Langford told me. Each time another casino opens in nearby states, “the Atlantic City market should expect to see some lost business,” Mayor Langford said, and “one or more of the weaker casinos may close.”

Politicians keep placing bets

David Cay Johnston
Mar 30, 2012 21:05 UTC

Politicians in both parties are betting that allowing more gambling will make them winners at the polls by raising revenue without appearing to raise taxes.

Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Steve Beshear of Kentucky, both Democrats, each want seven casinos.

In Kansas, where the state owns casinos, Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, wants more gambling money to pay down state debts.

Macau big for casinos, taxman

David Cay Johnston
Aug 16, 2011 16:34 UTC

By David Cay Johnston
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Lisboa, the oldest casino in this thriving gambling city, features a polished black marble floor flecked with what looks like glittering gold. While all gamblers eventually find only fool’s gold, like the glittering pyrite in the marble floor, government is mining real gold from the casinos here.

Macau, a special administrative region of China, is raking in 8 billion patacas (US$1 billion) a month this year in casino taxes.

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