Parx Casino fights for lower tax bill in Bensalem

The owners of the Parx Casino in Bensalem Township want to reduce their local tax burden, which could affect schools.
The owners of the Parx Casino in Bensalem Township want to reduce their local tax burden, which could affect schools. (APRIL SAUL / Staff)
Posted: December 07, 2013

The owners of Parx Casino, known for huge charitable donations, are fighting for a lower property-tax bill in Bensalem Township and have paid the taxes under protest for the last three years.

The dispute could be significant for the Bensalem Township School District, which said last month in a bond-offering document that Parx, including the racetrack, was by far the largest taxpayer in the township, accounting for 8.4 percent of school district assessments.

The total assessment for Parx, which is owned by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., is $54.1 million. That translates into a market value of $426.8 million and an annual property tax bill of $10.1 million, according to the tax rate for 2013 published on Bensalem Township's website.

The dispute centers on a 411-acre parcel that Greenwood bought for $56.9 million in 1990, according to a court document.

After Greenwood built Parx Casino, the Bucks County Board of Assessment Appeals increased the assessment of that property to $42.7 million from $11.8 million, a court filing says. After an initial appeal, the board dropped the assessment slightly, to $40.5 million in 2011.

That's when Greenwood subsidiaries Keystone Turf Club Inc. and Bensalem Racing Association Inc. appealed to the Court of Common Pleas.

The companies argued in their 2011 lawsuit that the contested property's assessment should be $30.3 million. That would cut the company's annual real-estate tax by about $1.9 million, or about 19 percent, a year.

The Bensalem Township School District said in its bond prospectus that it expected the Parx tax appeal to be resolved in the next 18 months.

Carrie Nork Minelli, Parx's spokeswoman, said Parx does not comment on matters in litigation.

Even without the property tax, Parx, as the most lucrative slots operator in the state, is a major financial contributor to Bensalem Township, which collected $10.94 million in casino taxes in the year ended June 30, down slightly from $11.36 million the year before.

Parx is also a force in charitable giving, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all charitable donations by Pennsylvania casinos. It has donated a total of $36.6 million, including $9.93 million last year, but it has refused to identify all of the beneficiaries.

Parx entities, Greenwood Table Games Services Inc., and Greenwood Gaming Services Co. employ 1,246. That is slightly more than the school district, which had 1,234 employees, according to the bond prospectus.


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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