A new proposal in Pennsylvania’s legislature would require any additional gaming revenue heading to the state be used only for property tax relief.
Sponsored by State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), Senate Bill 269 would give homeowners a break by making up some of the shortfall in the Property Tax Relief Fund that was set up a decade ago.
Currently, the fund gets about $530 million annually for local property tax relief, far short of the $1 billion that was promised when the fund was established in 2004. It’s funded by a 54 percent tax on slot machine revenue at the state’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos.
In 2018, gross gambling revenue (GGR) from slot machines at all Pennsylvania land casinos totaled $2.37 billion. Collectively, the gaming venues won $3.25 billion, up $22 million from the previous year.
But while 2018 was technically a record, if considering inflation, it was the state’s worst gaming performance since table games were authorized in 2010, a local news report revealed.
So far, officials have yet to estimate how much expanded gaming would add to the relief fund.
Some 15 years ago, it was estimated Pennsylvania homeowners would save about $300 per household off their property tax bill from the initiative. But Phillips-Hill says the average in her district works out to just $120. The average tax reduction statewide is reported to be about $200.
Complex Formula for Relief
Savings from property tax relief varies by local school districts, using a formula that considers home values and tax rates, according to Pennsylvania NBC affiliate TV station WGAL.
Last April, officials estimated $595 million would be available for statewide property tax relief in the 2018-19 year. So far, no votes have been taken on the new bill, but it has bipartisan support.
The bill is now before the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, and it resembles a House bill Philips-Hill worked on last year.
“As the state continues to debate expansion of gaming to include internet … and video gaming terminals, I believe the Commonwealth should again ensure the revenue is used to provide property tax relief,” Philips-Hill explained in a comment on the Senate proposal.
She points out that when the state approved casino table games, “contrary to the original promise made with slot revenue, there was no additional property tax relief for Pennsylvanians.”
Her bill, Philips-Hill told Casino.org, “honors the original intent of the Gaming Act by ensuring new gaming revenue is used to provide much-needed property tax relief.”
New Bets on Board
Currently, the Keystone state is expanding its gambling offerings, as its first satellite casino, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, recently was approved by the Caernarvon Township Board of Supervisors, while four other satellite casinos are in the works. Sports betting — which started last December — and daily fantasy sports are well underway, too.
Online gambling sites are likely to start taking bets sometime around July, and slot machines are slated to come to truck stops also.