Delaware casinos one step closer to relief

(file/NewsWorks)

(file/NewsWorks)

A bill that could help Delaware’s three casinos has several hurdles to clear prior to the state’s June 30 budget deadline.

Senate Bill 220, sponsored by Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, is destined for the Senate floor after passing committee on Wednesday. The bill would save the casinos about $20 million a year by reducing the state’s cut of gross table game revenue from 29.4 percent to 15 percent. The state would also eliminate its table game licensing fee and would share the cost of vendor fees.  

The casinos claim they cannot compete with neighboring gaming states at their current tax rate.

Dover Downs CEO Denis McGlynn explained that after major investments were made to their property in 2008, the state hit casinos with a tax increase in 2009 to help make up for a budget shortfall.

“After we make all of that huge investment, the taxes go up and we can’t afford to pay what we borrowed,” McGlynn said.

Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington-North, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the casinos lacked detail on their plans to continue to invest in Delaware and stay competitive.

“How would you use money if you got it, where would you invest it, what would be the effect of it?” McDowell asked. “What’s your plan to get out of the mess, other than asking the legislatature to turn over taxpayer money?”

McGlynn replied that the extra money would allow Dover Downs to continue operations and move forward with marketing programs.

“If we get a relief package, we will be able to continue to function as a major provider of revenues to the state general fund and a major employer here in the state,” McGlynn said.

Dover Downs, along with Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway, generate about $200 million in state revenue annually. They are also responsible for creating thousands of jobs throughout the state.

While the bill passed committee, it’s unclear how the state will fund the legislation if adopted. The Joint Finance Committee finished fiscal year 2015 budget markups last week and did not factor in the casinos.

The state is awaiting the final revenue forecast report from the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council, which will be released later this month.

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