Bill cutting casino tax revenue stirs in delaware senate

The Delaware Senate Finance Committee could consider on Wednesday a bill that calls for a significant cut to the current tax the state’s three casinos are required to pay annually.

Local media reported that Gov. John Carney met with the bill’s sponsors Tuesday to negotiate a deal that would prevent a significant reduction of tax revenue flowing into the state’s coffers. Delaware’s top legislator has also reportedly asked the Senate President to hold the legislative piece until May when the Legislature would have comprehensive information on the state’s revenue numbers.

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Delaware’s three casinos are currently taxed at 43% on slot machine revenue and at 30% on revenue from table games. In addition, the gambling venues are required to pay a $3-million licensing fee on their table games every year.

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The current gambling revenue tax rate was established in 2009. It represented a significant increase from the 36% rate imposed to casinos in the 2000s and even a twofold increase from the tax paid by the same gambling venues in the 1990s.
Senate Bill 144, authored and sponsored by Senators Brian Bushweller and Harris McDowell, would establish a tiered tax rate on slot machine revenue. Casinos will thus have to pay between 32% and 43.5% on what the gaming devices generate, depending on their monthly proceeds. Revenue from table games would be taxed at a flat 15% rate.
The annual licensing fee would be nixed completely, if the bill gains the necessary support in the state Legislature. The legislative piece would also lift an existing ban on casinos to operate on Easter and Christmas.

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Reactions to the Bill
Gov. Carney is understood to be among the bill’s main opponents. Legislators and other involved parties have voiced concerns that a reduced tax rate could result in the state losing much-needed revenue of up to $20 million per year.
However, the bill’s supporters, including Delaware’s three casinos, have pointed out that while less revenue would enter the state’s coffers, the proposed changes in the current tax rate would help the venues stay afloat and be able to blunt competition from neighboring states.
The casinos are also said to be collectively supporting 3,000 jobs across the state and their inability to remain profitable would risk many of these jobs.

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A similar version of the bill was previously presented to the Legislature but failed to move much forward. Members of the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Sen. McDowell, are set to meet at 2 pm today.

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It is believed that the bill would likely be brought up for discussion, although Senators have not confirmed that yet.
Today’s meeting marks a deadline Sen. McDowell introduced back in January for the bill’s movement in the Legislature. The lawmaker penned a letter to Gov. Carney in early 2018, arguing that the current revenue sharing agreements between the state and its casinos needed urgent review. Sen.

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McDowell also warned Delaware’s highest ranking legislator that his bill would be released for a vote by the full Senate floor after it was written out of committee at today’s scheduled meeting.