Over the past few weeks, several casinos in the state of Pennsylvania have agreed to pay a host fee to the host municipality despite a ruling back in September in which the fee amount was considered unconstitutional. While most every casino has agreed to continue to pay their fee, the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has not. A prosecutor in the state is now threatening to possibly not prosecute chip theft cases or bad checks filed by the casino if they continue to refuse to pay the fee to the host communities.
The issue started back in September when the state Supreme Court ruled that the host community fee and slot tax imposed years ago was unconstitutional. The ruling was determined as part of a case filed by Mount Airy, a venue that was opposed to the fee. The casino argued that gambling venues had to pay different rates based on their site. The basis of the payment is $10 million or 2% of slot gaming revenues, whichever amount is larger.
The ruling by the court was stayed until the end of next month which gives legislators time to find a solution. In the meantime, casinos have begun working with their host communities to work out their payments, with most honoring the agreement they had made previously. The payments go to the community, paying for police and fire stations, programs, etc. Without the money, the community’s budgets suffer.
The Sands has been one gaming venue that has yet to try and make an agreement with their host community. Because of this, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli published a letter to the officials of the Sands Bethlehem where he informed them that if they refuse to pay the fee he would no longer feel obligated to pursue theft and fraud complaints that the casino had filed.
Morganelli further noted that the Northampton and Lehigh Counties along with Bethlehem had agreed to host the gambling venue due to the agreed upon payment. Because of this, the property should not be hesitant to honor the agreement and act as a good partner to their host.
A meeting has now been set for the 3rd of January where the host issue should be up for discussion. Members of legislature have said they hope to have the issue dealt with by the end of the month.