Pennsylvania Prosecutor Threatens Sands to Pay Up

by Jim Hall

The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has no plans to pay their host community tax fee and this has one prosecutor threatening to avoid working on cases for the venue unless they pay up.

In the state of Pennsylvania, gaming law saw that casinos in the state had to pay a fee to the host community. This fee was to be $10 million or 2% of the slot gaming revenue, with the casino paying the higher amount to the city. In September, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mount Airy Casino, stating that the set fee was unconstitutional and that changes were to be made. Casinos do not have to pay their fee and lawmakers are to make a change to the tax that is fair to all operators.

Lawmakers have been unable to come to a decision as to what needs to happen in regards to the fee but gaming venues are still opting to come to tentative agreements with host communities in order to provide the much-needed funds to meet municipality budgets. Within the past few weeks, several casinos have come to an agreement to pay their local fee. However, one gaming venue is not.

Sands; the Lone Hold-out

John MorganelliThe Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has decided they will not pay the $10 million fee to their host community. Instead, the Sands wants to wait and see what lawmakers come up with. In response to the hold-out, a prosecutor for Northampton County has decided to push the Sands to pay up. John Morganelli is the Northampton County District Attorney who released a letter on Tuesday to the Sands officials that said if they refuse to pay the fee then he will not be obligated to pursue theft and fraud complaints that have been filed by the gaming venue. These cases would involve bad checks or chip theft.

Morganelli further stated that the casino agreeing to make contributions to the communities was the driving force behind the counties deciding to agree to host the gambling venue. Because of this fact, the casino should not hesitate to honor their agreement and act as a good partner to the host communities.

A Meeting Next Month

In efforts to fix the host tax among other issues, the legislators of the state have been called to a meeting on the 3rd of January. Legislators remain hopeful that the issue will be resolved by the end of March. On top of the community tax, legislators should also be discussing online gambling legislation as well as other expansion topics.

It is unclear as to if the statements by Morganelli will be of any sway to the Sands property. While other casinos have easily come to agreements with their host community, the Sands seems uninterested in working with the community. This could prove to be detrimental to the success of the venue as the local community needs the funds and patrons may not want to visit the Sands after learning they are not willing to assist when needed.

The Sands brand is no stranger to controversy as they are connected to Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who has been against online gambling as well as other expansions of gambling across the United States. It is not surprising to find that the gaming venue is now the hold-out when it comes to assisting others and paying a fee that would help the community.

Casinos as well as the host communities are hoping a permanent solution will be put in place in the near future to do away with any guesswork and see the host community earning a payment for being home to the gaming venues. Only time will tell if this will actually happen or if the decision will be delayed even further.