Bally’s Rhode Island Casinos Take Property Tax Challenges to Court

Posted on: May 25, 2022, 08:27h. 

Last updated on: May 25, 2022, 09:53h.

The two Bally’s Rhode Island casinos have filed lawsuits in state court seeking to reduce their respective property tax obligations for 2021.

Bally's Rhode Island casinos Lincoln Tiverton
Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino is seen open amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, with social distancing protocols in place. Bally’s is appealing its property tax assessments for both of its Rhode Island casinos. (Image: Providence Business News)

The Bally’s Corporation — formerly Twin River Worldwide Holdings — says it has overpaid in the form of property taxes for its two casino properties in the state. The company owns and operates Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort and Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel.

Bally’s officials contend that the local towns of Lincoln and Tiverton failed to adequately compute the negative impact of COVID-19 on its casino and hotel operations. Specifically, the casino operator argues that tax assessors did not appropriately factor in “economic obsolescence” into their property tax appraisals. Economic obsolescence is the loss of value as a result of an external economic factor beyond a business’s control.

Tiverton reduced Bally’s property assessment from $64 million in 2020 to $60 million in 2021. That slightly lowered the casino’s tax bill to $863,005.

Lincoln retained the Bally’s assessment at $108 million, which went unchanged from 2020. Lincoln officials say Bally’s is on the hook for a $2.7 million property tax payment for 2021.

Bally’s argues both valuations are far too high. But after repeatedly being denied property tax appeals, Bally’s is taking their cases to court.

Judicial Intervention

Rhode Island’s two commercial casinos were forced to close from mid-March 2020 through early June because of the coronavirus. Once permitted to reopen, the businesses were subject to numerous health emergency mandates, such as reduced indoor capacity.

The two casinos were ordered to close again in November of 2020, and for a third time in August of 2021, as COVID-19 spikes sounded alarms with health officials. Bally’s says the continued interruptions rendered the company’s two properties worth much less than the facilities were valued prior to the pandemic.

The company is seeking property assessments that “reflect the realities of the COVID-19 restrictions and closures.”

Filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, Bally’s is asking the judge to order the two towns to reevaluate the casinos’ assessments and work with the company to find a mutually agreeable levy. Bally’s said it’s seeking a fairer property tax obligation, with the difference that it paid for 2021, plus interest, being returned.

Gaming Plummets

Rhode Island’s ordered closures of Bally’s Lincoln and Bally’s Tiverton greatly reduced the casinos’ gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2020 and 2021.

The Rhode Island Lottery said in its 2019 fiscal year (July 2018-June 2019) the two casinos won $522.7 million on their VLT slot machines, and $163.4 million on their tables, for a combined GGR haul of approximately $686.1 million.

In fiscal year 2020, slot win totaled $352.8 million and tables won $83.2 million. In fiscal year 2021, slots kept $345 million of players’ bets and tables won $79.5 million. The 2020 and 2021 fiscal years represented declines from FY19 of 36% and 38%.

The Bally’s casinos lost many millions more in revenue from their hotels and restaurants being closed, as well as the halting of meetings, conferences, and weddings.

The Bally’s Lincoln casino floor spans 170,000 square feet, with 3,800 slot machines, 110 table games, and a sportsbook. Bally’s Tiverton is the smaller of the two Rhode Island casinos. Tiverton offers 1,000 slots, a couple of dozen table games, and a sportsbook.