Pennsylvania Gaming Returns 5th Year of Rebates to Property Owners; Horsemen Stiffed

Pennsylvania property owners received increased rebates this year toward their school tax bills as part of the Commonwealth program of using a share of gaming tax revenue to aid citizen’s property tax burden. The payments fulfill the promise of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Act to ”provide a significant source of new revenue to the Commonwealth to support property tax relief, wage tax reduction, economic development opportunities and other similar initiatives. 4 .P.S. 1102 Legislative Intent (2004). However, the signature intent behind Pennsylvania’s creation of a gaming industry, which is now second only to Nevada’s in casino revenue among the states, “to enhance live horse racing, breeding programs, entertainment and employment in this Commonwealth, has not proven as easily achieved. Successive administrations in Harrisburg have sought to lower the revenue originally intended for the benefit of Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the rebate payments for 2012 this week, which on average provided a $230.00 reduction to Commonwealth homeowners.

About $595 million in property tax rebates or wage tax relief is being shared by Pennsylvania districts statewide this year. There is also an additional $138 million directed to programs to benefit low-income tax abatement and rental-rebate programs and about $21 million to reimburse Philadelphia-area districts for lost income taxes from residents who pay the Philadelphia wage tax. Rebates are not automatically provided by school districts to property owners; the property owners must first apply. Pennsylvania property owners can learn about procedures for obtaining gaming tax rebates from a Special Report posted by the Commonwealth’s Auditor General.

Pennsylvania Horsemen populating the six horse track racinos in PA are not as pleased with the Commonwealth’s largess under the enabling legislation’s intent to benefit horse racing. Over the last few years, PA reduced the share of slots tax revenue horse racing realized by 17% and now Governor Corbett proposes further cuts in his budget, on top of the previous reductions, in the amount of $72,000,000. Horsemen estimate that the cuts could cost the Commonwealth as many as 10-15,000 jobs as other states offer more competitive purses and breeders awards. The Department of Agriculture has reported that employment in the industry tripled due to the revenue gains from slots tax revenue from 13,870 to more than 41,100. (Data from Press release by Pennsylvania Equine Coalition; 3/14/2012:

The redirection of funds from Pennsylvania’s Race Horse Development Fund would require Legislative approval.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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