Rivers Casino officials and Mayor William Peduto’s (pictured) administration reached a final agreement this week to pay a $10 million local government assessment in 2017 after the City Council tentatively approved the agreement between the parties last week. On December 29, the Council will cast its final vote.
Having reached a decisive agreement, Mayor Peduto thanked Rivers Casino for their commitment to the city of Pittsburgh. Peduto said, “The next step is working with legislators in Harrisburg to find a long term solution to this funding gap, which is impacting cities and counties throughout the Commonwealth,” according to the South Pittsburgh Reporter. Final approval of Pittsburgh’s 2017 budget had been delayed previously by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) due to the lack of gaming funds. A special meeting to approve the budget is expected to be held by the ICA once funding is secured.
In October, the City of Pittsburgh announced its request that the Rivers Casino voluntarily pay $10 million annually in gambling taxes. The request came after the decision in September by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reject the controversial ‘local host fee’ that host municipalities were collecting from the state’s casinos. The high court rejected the local share assessment, saying the taxes were unconstitutional and gave lawmakers a four-month deadline to amend their policies.
Negotiations between the city and Rivers Casino have been ongoing since October. Craig Clark, the general manager of Rivers Casino, said, “We’ve 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,” according to the report.
The $10 million in funding in 2017 will help provide firefighter and police recruit classes planned for the New Year; the hiring of 20 emergency medical technicians, 40 Parks & Recreation positions, and 25 percent of the staffing for the Department of Public Works Operations.
The Parx Casino in Bensalem recently announced that it will continue to pay the host fee in 2017. Parx joins Harrah’s in Chester, Hollywood in Dauphin County, and now Rivers who have also agreed to pay the host fee to their local communities. Sands Bethlehem, however, will not follow suit, according to a report earlier this month. Sands, instead, will opt to wait and see how state lawmakers respond to the September decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and then decide accordingly.
That decision apparently doesn’t sit well with Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who released a letter on Tuesday written to casino officials stating that if Sands fails to pay the $10 million local government assessment, he may decide not to prosecute cases involving chip thefts or bad checks at the Bethlehem casino, according to SFGate. In the letter, Morganelli reportedly wrote that he can’t justify using his office’s resources to aid a profitable corporation when it isn’t acting as a good corporate citizen.