Pennsylvania Property Taxes, Part 4: True Patriots Play the Slots

May 18, 2006

Every year more than two million people visit historic Gettysburg. They go to see the famous Civil War battlefield, reflect on the past, learn about their heritage and, of course, play the slots.

Slots? We made that part up, but it might be true soon, and if you think it sounds strange, you’re not alone.

A developer has announced plans to build the Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa about a mile from Gettysburg National Military Park. This plan has many residents, anti-gambling groups and historic-preservation groups up in arms. Angry citizens attended public hearings held on the matter by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and formed a group called No Casino Gettysburg solely to block the project. While the Chamber of Commerce supports the casino proposal, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed an amendment opposing the plan.

The casino plan won’t be a sure thing until the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board begins granting Category 1 gaming licenses, possibly in September. Read the full story in USA Today.

What makes this issue a tax policy matter is that the casino plan is not merely a controversial decision by a corporation; it is an act of state government. It all started in 2004 when the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 72, The Homeowner Tax Relief Act, which authorized over 60,000 slot machines at racetracks and other locations, taxed at 34%, ostensibly to raise money for education and thereby lower property tax rates. As we’ve previously written, (here, here and here) Act 72 is poor tax policy—complicated legislation that increases tax complexity and takes a roundabout route to tax relief.

Proponents of Act 72 and the Gettysburg casino plan seem to believe, as many legislators in other states do, that gambling taxes—which are non-neutral, complex, and often hidden in the form of state lotteries or video lottery terminals—are preferable to straightforward tax increases or decreases.

Gambling has never been so patriotic.

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