Rule change benefits Revel, but will be protested

New Jersey’s Legislature has adopted a rule change that prevents voters in Atlantic City from having a say at the polls on whether the city’s unfinished Revel Entertainment resort project should receive 20 years of sales tax breaks valued at up to $300 million.

The change technically removes from voter approval any business venture funded by state economic stimulus funds, according to a report in The Press of Atlantic City. This directly aids Revel, which has had trouble finding financing to complete the $2.6 billion megaresort and has applied to the state Economic Development Authority for tax incentives made possible through state stimulus money.

But a group of protesters, led by the leader of the region’s largest casino workers union, Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, has fought since January to overturn Atlantic City’s approval of Revel’s application and has demanded a referendum on the ordinance that formalized the city’s approval.

The rule change heads to Gov. Chris Christie for action.

Local 54 President Bob McDevitt, who is pursuing a legal challenge against Atlantic City Council, told The Press that Monday’s vote was an “insult to the residents of this area.”

“The reality is the state can make huge changes to how a city looks and feels, without any agreement from the people who live there,” he said, adding that he would bring his objections to the EDA.