The upper echelons of New Jersey’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) are set to experience a significant change as Executive Director Sean Pattwell prepares to tender his resignation. Pattwell, who stepped into his role just over a year ago on April 1, 2022, is said to be leaving his post in order to explore new opportunities.
Prior to his tenure with the CRDA, Pattwell was a key figure in the insurance industry. With an impressive educational background that includes a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees, Pattwell’s commitment to academia continues unabated as he pursues a fourth Master’s in literature at Harvard University.
His imminent departure has captured the attention of ROI-NJ, which recently shed light on the news. However, specifics regarding the timing of Pattwell’s exit from the state government agency have not been disclosed.
The CRDA has been a significant player in Atlantic City’s landscape since its inception in 1984, following a 1976 ballot referendum that altered the state’s Constitution to permit casino gambling. Under the law, each casino licensee is obligated to contribute 2.5% of gross gaming revenue to the state or, alternatively, reinvest 1.25% of gaming income through the CRDA. To date, casinos have universally opted for reinvestment.
The authority’s funding mechanisms are as diverse as they are substantial, ranging from vehicular parking charges to luxury taxes on hotel revenues, alcohol sales, and entertainment receipts. At its core, the CRDA’s mission is to marshal its financial resources to drive significant, positive transformations within the community.
Despite these noble intentions, the handling of funds has been met with skepticism and critical scrutiny from Atlantic City residents, particularly concerning how the funds have been allocated. Notably, the agency’s financial backing of the Miss America pageant drew heightened public ire, culminating in the cessation of a more than $4 million annual subsidy after the 2019 event.
In addition, an audit spearheaded by then-New Jersey State Auditor Stephen Eells in 2018 cast doubts over the efficacy and efficiency of the CRDA’s funds usage, along with accounting inconsistencies and issues with vendor negotiations. This was staunchly defended by Robert Mulcahy, the chair of the CRDA at the time.
As Sean Pattwell makes his exit, the CRDA gears up to initiate a nationwide search for a new executive director, looking to fill the vacancy left by a leader whose salary stood at $175,000 and whose tenure has been marked by quiet discretion and a noticeably low profile in media engagements.
The search for a replacement may be geared towards attracting a leader who defies the precedent set by Pattwell, perhaps someone who is more outward-facing and ready to tackle the continuing challenges posed by the agency’s critical role in managing Atlantic City’s casino revenues.
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