N.J. hears plan to exempt Atlantic City casino-bound buses from tolls

New Jersey lawmakers have come with another way to help bump up revenue at Atlantic City casinos.

The take at Atlantic City casinos has been down for six straight years. Waiving the tolls for the buses that regularly travel there would help attract more visitors who may be going elsewhere, suggests Sen. Jim Whelan.

“It’s not a cure-all, but it’s one small piece, hopefully, that can help as we struggle to be competitive in the marketplace of the East Coast now,” said Whelan, D-Atlantic.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, disagrees.

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“When we have people that are struggling to go to work and have to pay those tolls and you say that busload full of people that are willing to lose their rent checks we’re going to give them a break, that doesn’t seen fair,” said Pennacchio, the only lawmaker at a hearing of the Senate Tourism Committee Tuesday to vote against the legislation.

Supporters of the measure say the loss of state revenue from giving the buses a break on the tolls would be made up by an increase in sales tax and other revenue that additional Atlantic City visitors would generate.

Joe Tyrrell, regional vice president for Caesar’s Entertainment, says giving the buses a break would help attract more people to Atlantic City.

“I think it helps the industry drive new customers that live out of state to New Jersey. Those 50 customers on a bus, their average spend is between $50 and $250. They’re going to spend it in New Jersey,” he said. “We’d rather them spend it here rather than spend it in other states.”

Buses that qualify for the exemption would get a transponder to travel for free though the toll lanes.

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