Maryland Eyes Gaming Tax Hike

Casino operators in Maryland are protesting a bill that would raise the state’s tax on table game revenues by 10 percent in reaction to casinos removing slot machines.

Casino operators in Maryland are being joined by the American Gaming Association in opposing legislation introduced in February that would raise the state tax on table game revenue from 20 percent to 30 percent.

The bill, sponsored by state Senator Joan Carter Conway and co-sponsored by 20 senators, is awaiting a vote by the Budget and Taxation Committee. It is seen as a reaction to approvals by the state Gaming Commission for the removal of 300 slot machines each by the Maryland Live! and Horseshoe Baltimore casinos.

The casinos’ position is that the moves reflect the changing tastes of the players, while lawmakers viewed it as a way to skirt the 67 percent tax on slot revenues, one of the highest in the nation. Under Conway’s bill, the 67 percent tax on slot revenues would remain in place.

Casino operators have testified before the budget committee against the bill, pointing out that the lower table tax is necessary because of the labor costs associated with table games and that, given the already-onerous revenue taxes, the net effect of raising taxes even higher will be less revenue for the state, not more, as capital improvements will suffer and some facilities could even close.

In an interview with the Washington Post, AGA Vice President Sara Rayme said the organization is working against the measure. “We’ve been working really hard to ensure that the legislators have all of the facts about what a 50 percent increase on the tax on table games would mean to the industry and what it would mean to the state, and how it would negatively impact the revenues that would be returned,” she said.

Conway dismissed the concerns in an interview with the newspaper. “If you think we’re overregulated, if you think the taxes are too high, you were very cognizant of that when you were busy bidding for casinos in the state of Maryland and you wanted to be here,” she said, “And with all that said, you’re still making money.”

Conway also said she “loves that bill,” and predicted it will be voted out of committee soon. “I don’t know one senator who is opposed to the bill,” she told the Post.