Sunday, July 31, 2016
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Slot machine tax challenged by Rivers Casino
Every day, 2 percent of the cash earned by every slot machine at Rivers Casino goes to the city of Pittsburgh. In 2015, that amounted to $5.5 million. But it wasn’t nearly enough. At the end of the year, the North Shore casino cut a check for another $4.5 million to hand over to the city — representing the difference between what its slot machines produced and the minimum $10 million that Pittsburgh is entitled to annually under state gambling law.
Rivers Casino challenge to slots tax highlights big checks Pa. casinos have been writingJuly 21, 2016
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Every day, 2 percent of the cash earned by every slot machine at Rivers Casino goes to the city of Pittsburgh. In 2015, that amounted to $5.5 million. But it wasn’t nearly enough.
At the end of the year, the North Shore casino cut a check for another $4.5 million to hand over to the city — representing the difference between what its slot machines produced and the minimum $10 million that Pittsburgh is entitled to annually under state gambling law.
Rivers Casino is no exception.
Last year, eight other casinos in the state ponied up anywhere from $2.4 million to $7.6 million in “true-up” payments to cover the difference between what their slot machines produced for local municipalities and the minimum $10 million they are required to pay their communities.
The municipal portion of the local share tax, enacted when slot machine gambling was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2004, is now the subject of legal challenges by Rivers and two other casinos — Mount Airy and Harrah’s Philadelphia.
Stakes have become high in the legal tussle — so high that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto canceled an appearance at Rivers Casino Wednesday for a Northside Chamber of Commerce event.
He felt “it is not appropriate to appear at the casino while it is making the city the subject of a lawsuit putting taxpayer funds in jeopardy,” spokesman Tim McNulty said.
Under the system being challenged, all casinos in the state are required to pay the municipal portion except those in Philadelphia and the resort casinos in Nemacolin and Valley Forge. The affected venues pay 2 percent of their gross terminal revenue if it exceeds $500 million or $10 million if it is less than that.
In its lawsuit filed last month, Holdings Acquisition Co., the Rivers Casino owner, claimed the provision “imposes unequal rates of taxation on slot machine licensees” and violates uniformity and equal protection clauses in the state and U.S. constitutions.
The law lacks uniformity, it maintained, because it ordains two tax rates on the same class of taxpayers depending on whether gross terminal revenues are above or below $500 million. That difference in treatment is “arbitrary and not rationally related to any legitimate government purpose,” Holdings argued.
Compounding the matter, at least in the eyes of Holdings, is that casinos in the city of Philadelphia pay 4 percent of their gross terminal revenue as the local share but are not subject to the $10 million minimum. Resort casinos pay 2 percent and aren’t subject to the $10 million minimum.
In the 10 years the state has been collecting the municipal share, no casino has ever exceeded the $500 million figure, meaning all have been required to write checks every year to hit the $10 million level. That’s despite the fact many would be paying much less based solely on revenues.
The way the system works is that the state collects 2 percent a day from casino slot machines and earmarks it for the municipal share. At the end of the year, the state calculates how much has been collected and how much each casino owes as a “true-up” payment to reach the $10 million.
Last year, Parx Casino, the largest in the state, shelled out the least, $2.4 million. Presque Isle in Erie, anted up the most, $7.6 million.
Rivers paid $4.5 million, while The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County paid $5.6 million.
The majority paid between $4 million to $5 million.
Christopher Craig, who helped craft the state’s gambling law as a lawyer working for former state Sen. Vincent Fumo, said the local share was added to help municipalities offset the costs, including police and infrastructure, associated with hosting a casino.
As for the 2 percent versus the $10 million, the legislature was seeking to strike a balance between the needs of the municipality and “not creating a burden” for the casino, Mr. Craig said.
The 4 percent was put in place for Philadelphia because legislators felt gross terminal revenues for casinos in that city would generate more than $10 million a year for the local share.
“People can go back 12 years and quibble with some of the public policy decisions,” Mr. Craig said. “At the end of the day, the act has been extremely successful.”
Should Rivers prevail, Pittsburgh would lose $10 million a year in revenue, though payments the past few years have been tied up in a battle with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority. Rivers also is demanding about $65 million in refunds for money it paid in the past.
Pittsburgh has been using the gambling funds to prop up its ailing pension fund, as required under the Act 47 recovery plan.
If the city loses the money, it would not be able to meet that state mandate or would have to cut $10 million from “core municipal services” to do so, Mr. McNulty said. The city intends to intervene in the lawsuit.
“The local share tax payments were one of the conditions for granting the casino its license, and it never should have taken this frivolous legal action,” Mr. McNulty said.
Like the city, Denis Rudd, a professor and director of hospitality and tourism management at Robert Morris University, doesn’t think the casino has much of a beef. He said there’s definitely a cost to the municipality in hosting such a venue “and that’s the reason they get a chunk of” the revenue.
Mr. Rudd conceded $10 million is nothing to sneeze at — even for a casino like Rivers that produced $272 million in gross terminal revenue last fiscal year, 54 percent of which went for taxes, including the municipal payment. But all casinos knew going in what the cost would be, he noted.
“They agreed to it, so they should have to pay it,” he said.
Probation officers said Patricia Baddeley Meehan almost immediately started gambling after being released from federal prison in August 2013.
Feds Want Embezzler Back In Prison After Gambling On Supervised Release
By Dave Altimari
A day after a federal judge decided not to revoke Patricia Baddeley Meehan's supervised release from prison in February of 2015 and warned her not to gamble, she was playing the slots at Foxwoods Resort Casino — a pattern authorities say of her continuing to gamble while free, winning more than $51,000 in the process.
Now the federal government is asking U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill to revoke her supervised release one month before it is supposed to end and put her back in federal prison for as long as 36 months. Baddeley Meehan, 50, will appear before Underhill on Thursday.
Federal authorities also are expected to ask the judge to order her to forfeit all of the money she won playing slot machines at Foxwoods while she was on probation.
Meehan was sentenced to 46 months in a federal prison in February 2010 after pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. She admitted that, while employed as a paralegal at the Berman and Russo law firm in South Windsor, she had several credit card accounts in her name that she used for purchases and cash advances to fuel her gambling habit at various casino's.
Authorities said she stole at least $1.7 million from the law firm over a five-year period beginning in 2002.
Meehan was released from federal prison in August 2013 and began her 36 months on federal probation.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
As Casino Revenues Plummet, What’s Next for Tiny Macau?
A corruption crackdown in China has seen casino revenues slashed in Macau, but locals say the breakneck growth of the industry since 2003 has changed the semi-autonomous Chinese territory irrevocably
Normally, when an economy shrinks by more than 20% in a year, it means a society is collapsing. Perhaps civil war has broken out, a foreign power has invaded or a natural disaster has crippled the infrastructure.
2 Calif. tribes sue to block casino proposal
Two California casino-owning tribes have filed lawsuits to block a third tribe in the state from building its own casino.
Federal judge denies effort to block proposed Indian casino in Butte County
By KRCR Staff
POSTED: 1:29 PM Jul 18 2016
CHICO, Calif. -
U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullen denied Butte County’s request to block the Mechoopda Indian Tribe’s proposed casino, paving the way for a casino to be built on a portion of 600 acres owned by the tribe at the northeast intersection of Highways 99 and 149.
Butte County asserted that the government's decision to take the land into trust was unfounded, and agreed with the Department of Interior's determination that the tribe did indeed have a historical connection to the land.
In a statement, the Mechoopda Tribe said it looks forward to advancing its proposed casino project.
County’s Tribal Casino Challenge Lacking, Judge Says
Mechoopda Casino Project Upheld in Federal Court
April 16, 2009
April 16, 2009
The Mechoopda Casino Project was challenged by Butte County in Federal court, however U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. dismissed the county’s suit yesterday. AES prepared the NEPA Environmental Assessment for the Tribe’s casino project.
Judge: County can’t stop casino
By ROGER H. AYLWORTH – Staff Writer
Posted: 04/14/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
OROVILLE — After more than two years of legal briefs, arguments and counter-arguments, a federal court in Washington, D.C. has rejected a Butte County effort to block a Mechoopda casino on Highway 149, about a mile east of Highway 99.
Monday, representatives of the tribe and the county issued announcements that U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. had dismissed the county’s suit.
Butte County Counsel Bruce Alpert, in a press release, stated, “The proposed casino site on Highway 149 will have major public safety, traffic, environmental and groundwater impacts.
“For the past several years, the casino developer has simply refused to work with Butte County to find an alternative site. As a result, Butte County had no recourse other than this litigation.”
Throughout the entire process, the county maintained the lawsuit was about environmental concerns related to the tribe’s proposed casino site, and not an attack on the Mechoopda.
Even so, the suit, which was filed against the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of the Interior, sought to persuade the court the agencies could not grant the Chico Rancheria Mechoopda the right to use the land because the Mechoopda did not qualify as a tribe.
Based on a study conducted in 2006 by Professor Stephen Dow Beckham, of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., the county lawsuit charged the Chico Rancheria unit of the Mechoopda Indians was not a tribe in any meaningful sense, but was an amalgamation of 11 groups that had little or nothing to do with the historic Mechoopda tribe.
The county claimed if the Chico Rancheria group was not a legitimate tribe, the federal agencies could not grant them the necessary authority to put a casino on the Highway 149 property.
“The court has considered the briefing, scoured the record, and pressed the parties on this issue during oral argument. Having done so, the court cannot find the county has done enough to justify setting aside the agencies’ actions here,” wrote Judge Kennedy in his decision.
Doug Elmets of Sacramento, the tribe’s spokesman, said the casino project is “alive and well.”
“This project has been in the process for many years despite the hurdles that have been thrown in its way, particularly by Butte County,” he said.
Elmets explained, from the tribe’s perspective, the next step will be to get the agreements with the state that will allow for gaming on the 645-acre site.
He also said it is far too early to discuss a target for groundbreaking.
The press release from the county said the possibility of an appeal is still being discussed.
As of the end of 2008, the litigation had cost the county nearly $322,800, according to records obtained by the tribe.
Elmets charged that was money “that was flushed down the drain on a frivolous lawsuit.”Posted in News