The city of Pittsburgh announced in early October that it had requested the Rivers Casino to voluntarily remit $10 million in gambling taxes. City officials stated that discussions between casino officials and city representatives were progressing well and that the Rivers Casino was open to the $10 million tax request.
This request came after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state’s casinos and rejected the controversial ‘local host fee’ that casinos in the state were subjected to. The court rejected the local share assessment on the basis that it was unconstitutional and gave a four month deadline to lawmakers to amend their policies.
Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburgh confirmed on November 14 that the Rivers Casino had agreed to pay out the $10 million till 2017. This amount will be of great help to the city budget as it helps to bridge a huge shortfall and will help keep the city of Pittsburgh on a better financial footing.
Earlier this year, the Holdings Acquisition Co which owns the Rivers Casino filed a lawsuit with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court against the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue stating that the municipal portion of the local tax was unfair as it violated the state clauses of equal protection and uniformity. Holdings Acquisition later withdrew the lawsuit but did not provide a reason as to why it decided to drop the lawsuit. It now appears that that the Rivers casino and city officials have finally worked out an agreement that will stand till 2017.
In a statement, Craig Clark, the general manager for the Rivers Casino said “To reinforce Rivers Casino’s strong commitment to our hometown, we have worked collaboratively with city officials to ensure that $10 million in annual local share payments from Rivers Casino to Pittsburgh will continue uninterrupted through 2017.”
While lawmakers in the state continue to work out a new deal that will replace the old local share assessment policy, the city of Pittsburgh will receive the $10 million till 2017 irrespective of what the new deal turns out to be. The agreement with the Rivers Casino has helped Mayor Peduto to present his $74.2 capital and $539.3 million operating budgets for 2017 to the City Council. The Mayor has committed to leading the city out of state fiscal scrutiny by 2019 and has promised that debt service in the next 5 years would drop to 9.7 percent of city expenses from the current 16.4 percent.
Mayor Peduto is also calling on non-profit organizations, foundations and corporations to help with funding for the city budget as it would help improve affordable housing, preschool and infrastructure development in Pittsburgh.