Delaware senators criticize casino “bailout” bill

 (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Delaware lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that will give the state’s three ailing casinos a $10 million break.

Under the amended Senate Bill 220, the casinos would claim the first 25 percent of slot machine vendor fees and would split the other 75 percent with the state, which would cut the state’s gaming revenue profit by $9.9 million.

The casinos have claimed that increased competition in neighboring states has created stagnant revenues. They also claim they can’t keep up with the multiple tax increases the state has imposed over the past few years.

Supporters of the legislation said it’s the state’s responsibility to protect the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues the casinos generate for the First State. 

In order to pass SB 220, the senate first had to pass the bond bill, which freed up the funds for the casinos.

To make it work, the state will take $3.2 million from money set aside for the Kent County Regional Sports Complex and $1.1 million from unallocated funds in the New Jobs and Infrastructure Fund. The other $5.6 million would come from funds allocated for the casinos in the fiscal year 2014 budget.

The money from the sports complex will be returned the following year.

Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington North, said the Joint Finance Committee was asked on several occasions to help the casinos but the committee didn’t think the casinos met the priorities for funding. 

“They have not managed their business so well and they want us to bail them out and I frankly just don’t think we should do that,” McDowell said. 

The state is already facing a tight budget year as revenues were lower than projected. Budget writers cut $20 million from Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed budget and were not able to move forward with other funding requests from state agencies. 

Sen. Karen Peterson and several lawmakers voted against both the casino bill and the bond bill, calling it an unnecessary bailout for an industry that has raked in billions and mismanaged their funds.

 “There’s a lot of hungry kids in Delaware who could have used that money, there’s a lot of elderly people who can’t make ends meet who could have used that money but we said no to all of them but we’ll say $10 million dollars to the casino without a heartbeat? Not with my vote,” she said. 

The bill passed the Senate Wednesday and now heads to the House. 

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