Bucks OKs host fee deal with Bensalem and Parx

The Bucks County Commissioners voted to approve a deal among the county, Parx and Bensalem to maintain the host fees paid by Parx through 2017, despite the September state Supreme Court ruling against them.

A week before, the Times reported, Bensalem Council voted in support of the deal, which will secure the usual $10 million for the township or 2 percent of the slot revenue, whichever is higher. In past years, it’s always been the $10 million.

But the third entity, Bucks County, still had to vote it in. The commissioners did so unanimously during their meeting last week. Under the terms of the memoriam of understanding, the county gets 2 percent of the slot revenue, which ends typically ends up around the $7 million mark.

The county keeps half of that, and the rest is dished out in grant money to Bensalem and other municipalities near the casino.

The agreement had to be hashed out after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the portion of the state gaming law that requires casinos to pay host fees to the municipalities they reside in, ruling it a violation of the state’s Uniformity Clause.

That ruling can’t be appealed, as it was made by the highest court in the state. But local lawmakers have been seeking to fix the issue with new legislation, led by state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson and state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo.

This is why the Parx deal is so key, Tomlinson said. It gives local municipalities that depend on the money the security of having the funds they expected, and legislators more time to work on a solution.

Previously, this was a mandatory tax Parx had to pay. With this ruling, the casino could have paid nothing, but made the agreement to help Bensalem and Bucks County, their longtime community partners.

“We were happy to enter into this agreement to continue the flow of funds for 2017, while the legislature hopefully will fix it.” said Tom Bonner, Parx’s chief counsel and vice president. “That was part of the deal when we came in. We understood it, and we’re standing by it.

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