Rivers Casino Pittsburgh Seeks Property Tax Reduction, Cites Mandatory Closures in 2020

Posted on: February 18, 2021, 11:26h. 

Last updated on: February 26, 2021, 10:35h.

The parent organization of Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is seeking to reduce the property’s tax liability.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh announces its closure in March of 2020. The owners of the property are seeking to have its property taxes reduced in response to COVID-19 shutdowns. (Image: Associated Press)

Holdings Acquisition Co. LP, the entity that owns and operates Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, has asked the Allegheny Common Pleas Court to require county officials to consider its property assessment appeal. The Allegheny County Assessment Appeals division recently rejected the casino’s request for the property’s valuation to be reconsidered.

“Rivers Casino Pittsburgh suspended operations repeatedly throughout 2020 to comply with state and countywide COVID-19 mitigation orders. Accordingly, Rivers Casino seeks to have its property accurately and fairly assessed,” Rush spokesperson Jack Horner said in a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Holdings Acquisition is fully owned by Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based casino operator. Along with its Pittsburgh casino, Rush has Rivers-branded casinos in Philadelphia, Schenectady, NY, and Des Plaines, Il.

Reduced Operations Led to Reduced Valuation

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh’s property assessment for 2020 was $245.9 million. It’s the highest in the entire county.

Attorneys representing the casino say mandatory shutdowns ordered by the state and county hurt its business, and therefore reduced the valuation of the property.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) first required the state’s land-based casinos to shutter operations in mid-March of last year. They reopened on a county-by-county approach based on COVID-19 numbers. Rivers Pittsburgh reopened on June 9.

Less than a month later, the Pittsburgh casino was again forced to suspend its gaming operations. On orders from the Allegheny County Health Department, the casino went dark on July 3. The county decision was the result of a spike in new coronavirus cases, and hospitals being inundated with COVID-19 patients.

Rivers Casino was permitted to reopen less than a week later on July 9.

After operating in reduced capacity for more than five months, Wolf for a second time ordered all casinos statewide to suspend operations. Gaming was halted effective December 12 and only resumed on January 4.

County and City Could Suffer

If Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is successful in having its property assessment reduced, the country and city would collect substantially less money from the gaming business. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says if the valuation is reduced to $240 million the city and county tax receipts would be slashed by $818,526.

A successful appeal would likely lead to other casinos in the state petitioning local officials for reduced property tax bills.

No casino was forced to close more in 2020 than Rivers Casino Philadelphia. Being inside the city limits, the City of Philadelphia banned indoor dining and gatherings, as well as casino operations at Rivers, for much of 2020.

Rivers Philly was ordered to close on November 20. It reopened on January 4.

Pennsylvania casinos were closed for a total of 1,473 days in 2020, or 33 percent of the days they should have been operational. Gross gaming revenue from land-based slot machines and table games totaled $1.86 billion. That represented a 43 percent loss from 2019 when the casinos won more than $3.26 billion.