State Rep: 'Not Much We Can Do' on Casino Revenue
County government sidelined as state agency decides which local projects will receive gaming funds.
As construction continues on the Valley Forge Casino Resort alongside Route 422, Montgomery County's legislative contingent in Harrisburg has informed the county that there's "not much" it can do to take control of the revenue generated by the planned facility's gaming activity.
Rather than having direct control over the 2 percent "host fee" the gaming facility must pay, those funds will instead be doled out to county agencies selected by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
State Representative Robert Godshall (R-53, Montgomery) told the county's commissioners in a letter that changing the arrangement would require the introduction of a new gaming bill.
"By virtue of its nature, [a bill] would attract dozens of amendments and be impossible to control," Godshall wrote, noting that the money is not taken away from Montgomery County, but "is instrumental in dictating the way the money should be disbursed."
Godshall's letter, which County Commissioner Joseph Hoeffel presented to the public at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, drew a critical response from Hoeffel and fellow Commissioner Bruce Castor. Commissioner James Matthews did not attend the meeting.
Hoeffel called Godshall's response "not adequate."
"We want the same 2 percent that every other county that has a resort gets," Hoeffel said.
"I've been a legislator. You can bring a bill to the floor if you get the agreement of both parties' leadership...you don't have to allow amendments. Montgomery County is being unfairly treated in the gaming law. I think our legislative delegation in both parties has to do better," Hoeffel said.
Castor agreed, saying he was "disappointed" in Godshall's response to the Board of Commissioners.
"Surely our delegation has to be among the largest in the state," said Castor. "I would think that they would have some cachet in the legislature to get things done. I would think the prudent things to do is to wait for Commissioner Matthews to come back and if he agrees, to ask [the county's delegation] to introduce some narrowly tailored legislation," Castor said.
Castor observed that the current arrangement prevents to county from directing gaming revenue towards infrastructure improvements such as road projects.
In 2008, the Valley Forge casino's ownership group projected first year gross slot machine revenues of $60.2 million. Slot revenues are taxed at 55 percent by the state. In addition, the state will collect a 16 percent tax on table gaming revenue.