The Parx Casino in Bensalem recently announced that it will continue to give its host communities their casino fees in 2017 irrespective of whether state legislators can keep their promise to restore the host fee before the agreement ends in January. Parx Casino has now joined gambling halls in Harrah’s in Chester, Hollywood in Dauphin County and Rivers in Pittsburgh who have also agreed to pay the host fee to their local communities.
The Supreme Court ruled in September against the $10 million host fee and 2 percent tax revenue fee on slot machine revenue stating that this tax agreement was unfair as it imposed a heavy burden on smaller casinos such as the Mount Airy Casino Resort. The host fee rule was challenged by Mount Airy Casino who alleged that the law breaches the tax uniformity clause in the state constitution.
The court gave state legislators a 120 day period that expires on Jan 26 to come up with a better law that addressed the issues of the smaller casinos in the state. Legislators were under pressure to put together a law quickly as nearly $140 million is generated via collective host fees that provide local communities with much-needed revenue for their budgets. Senate and House leaders were unable to reach an agreement and the session concluded in November. Legislators will resume discussions only in January 2017 and will be under even more pressure to get their legislation passed.
Sands Bethlehem casino is not going to follow the other four casinos in the state who have agreed to pay the host fee, according to The Morning Call. Sands executives met with Robert Donchez, the Mayor of Bethlehem and informed him that they were going to wait to see what legislation is passed and then make a decision accordingly. Mayor Donchez stated that he wasn’t concerned as of now and hopes that legislators find a solution quickly. Should that not be the case, then the Mayor will hold talks with Sands executives in April and see if they can work out a deal.
Rivers casino was one of the casinos that have agreed to continue with their host fee payments. In a statement, Craig Clark, General Manager of Rivers casino said, “To reinforce Rivers Casino’s strong commitment to our hometown, we have worked collaboratively with city officials to ensure that $10 million in annual local share payments from Rivers Casino to Pittsburgh will continue uninterrupted through 2017.”
Casinos make their host payment fees every quarter. The next payment is on January 15 and all casinos will go ahead with their payments as per the current legislation. However if legislators do not pass a new law before the next payment deadline which is April 15, casinos will be able to stop their host payment fees. Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh stated that there were no guarantees but they will push hard to beat the April deadline as they knew how important the money was for the local communities.