By Maddie Orton
Fifty thousand people packed onto the beach last weekend for a Maroon 5 concert –a reminder of the kind of big crowds a big-name performer can attract. It’s also a number cited by those for and against a new bill providing tax credits to other A-list artists performing in Atlantic City.
“Look what happened in Atlantic City this past weekend. Fifty thousand people showed up,” says State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. “I want to make that the norm of what happens in the entertainment region of Atlantic City.”
“They were there, and Maroon 5 was there without a tax credit, so it kind of makes the case,” says NJ Policy Perspective President Gordon MacInnes.
The bill “will effectively establish a 100 percent State income tax exemption for top-rated national performers who commit to perform periodically in Atlantic City.”
The credit kicks in after an entertainment or sports A-lister has performed at least four times in a taxable year within the Atlantic City Tourism District. After those shows, the credit can be claimed during the remainder of that year for performances in Atlantic City and other New Jersey venues.
Kean co-sponsors the bi-partisan bill. He says, “Gaming has always been one of Atlantic City’s mainstays, but it won’t be as robust a revenue stream as it was in the past. And so therefore, we need to make sure that the pillar that is entertainment is even stronger than in it is today in Atlantic City.”
Kean says Las Vegas’s artists in residence — like Britney Spears at Planet Hollywood — have transformed the city’s entertainment scene and that this bill will encourage occasional headliners become frequent fliers.
“These entertainers aren’t coming to any venue in New Jersey, just about, four times,” says Kean.
But MacInnes says tax incentives play a small role in determining where people do business and that in the State’s current financial situation, it doesn’t make sense.
“At this time, when we can’t pay for all the things that we’re obligated to pay for, and when our transportation network is in shambles, you want to put the money into the pockets of people who are already making $12 million a year?” says MacInnes.
Esam Hussin says it’s worth it. The owner of Three Brothers Pizza Palace says business has been down 30 percent this year, and concerts provide a welcome income boost.
“[It’s] similar to the Fourth of July weekend. We would love to see days like that every week,” he says. “The tax idea, if they’re getting a piece of the cake and we’re getting part of it, that’s great. Might as well just give them a break so we can make some money.”
One thing the legislation does not address in detail: who qualifies as an A-list performer. The bill’s language states top-ranked artists will be identified through a national review compiled annually by the Secretary of State.