Luzerne county in Pennsylvania’s Northeast is a quiet area marked by sprawling woodlands and a deer population that vastly outnumbers the humans who live there. Also located in this country is the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino resort and hotel, which brings in thousands and thousands of tourists annually. Recently, this casino has been in the local spotlight as disputes have arisen with regard to how much the casino’s property is actually worth. These disputes exist because the answer to that question will determine just how much, in property taxes, Mohegan Sun’s operators will have to pay each year.
The amount of tax dollars that the Mohegan Sun must pay each year as a Pennsylvania casino has always been a point of controversy. Since the earliest days of the casino’s existence, the Connecticut-based casino operators and Luzerne county taxing entities have never been able to reach an agreement as to how much the property is worth, and thus how much taxes are to be paid. As such, a deal was reached which saw the casino pay a flat $2.9 million each year. Of that $2.9 million, more than $2 million went directly to the Luzerne county school district, while the remaining funds were distributed between the county and the local township where the casino is situated. Unfortunately for Mohegan Sun operators, that deal expired at the end of 2015 and the powers that be are demanding that Mohegan Sun pay more.
Now, with a new convention center and other amenities having been added in recent years, Luzerne County upped its estimated value of the property to a number that would see Mohegan Sun forced to pay $3.71 million in property taxes each year. The $3.71 million figure is being disputed from both sides, too. The county is saying that this is still too low a figure, while Mohegan Sun is saying that it is too high. Both sides have appealed their cases, but because no agreement had been reached it seems as though this argument is destined to go to trial.
When we think of trials, we often think of judges and juries, but in this case there is no need for a jury. What will basically happen is that the case will go in front of a judge who, by him or herself, will make a final determination. Historically, however, these types of cases are often settled outside of court and never actually end up going to trial. That is exactly what many expect will happen this time, but proceedings are just getting underway. The next step for both sides is to have the property’s value professionally assessed and go from there. There are no hard deadlines for who needs to do what, and when, so it seems as though the battle might last for a little while.
The casino is a huge moneymaker for the county, so it will be interesting to see if Luzerne county officials tread lightly, or if they will be out for blood and look for Mohegan Sun to pay even more than the already estimated $3.71 million.