Pennsylvania DA: Sands Bethlehem on its own if it won’t pay host fee

sands-bethlehem-pennsylvania-host-feeCasino operator Las Vegas Sands has been warned that it can’t ignore its Pennsylvania tax obligations and expect state law enforcement officials to respond to the casino’s calls for assistance.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a community ‘host fee’ and slots tax as unconstitutional due to many of the state’s dozen casinos paying different rates depending on the size of their gaming operations.

The Court stayed its decision until January 26 to give legislators time to fix the situation. A quick fix bill failed to resolve the issue as the 2016 legislative session ended without an affirmative vote. The casinos are scheduled to make their next payment on January 15, making some kind of deal necessary before the April 15 payment deadline.

Five casinos have since reached deals with their host communities to ensure the money keeps flowing so local police, fire and medical services are adequately funded.

But Las Vegas Sands’ Sands Bethlehem has resisted making its own deal until it learns what state legislators will do when the legislature reconvenes early in 2017. Sands spokesman Ron Reese said only that the company was watching the legislature, and would “act accordingly” as the situation unfolds.

On Tuesday, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli made public a letter he’d written to Sands Bethlehem president Mark Juliano, saying that if Sands fails to honor its $10m host fee obligation, Morganelli wouldn’t feel honor bound to pursue charges against anyone caught cheating or passing bad checks at the casino.

Morganelli said he “would not, in good conscience, be able to justify the use of my limited resources to help a profitable, billion-dollar corporation while the Sands maintains the position they are an island unto themselves.”

Last week, Pennsylvania Sen. Kim Ward summoned representatives of the state’s casino operators to a meeting on January 3 to discuss the various proposed changes to the state’s gambling laws, which include potentially authorizing online gambling and daily fantasysports. Ward hopes to gain movement on the gambling issues early in the new year, rather than wait until the legislature’s traditional horse-trading begins in earnest in June.

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January 3, 2017: posted in News And Reviews No Comments

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