Senate lowers tax rate (again) for Rocky Gap
Maryland's Senate tonight gave the final nod to a bill that would drastically lower the tax rate for gaming revenue from a casino at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland in an attempt to gin up interest in the aging site.
The Senate plan would reduce the tax on gaming revenues to 50 percent, well below the 67 percent that the state takes (or will take) at the other four casinos in Maryland. The lower rate would be in effect for 10 years.
The plan also would ease the current ownership rules: A bidder for Rocky Gap would be allowed to own another casino in the state. And, a future owner would be allowed to place slot machines in the lodge, eliminating a current provision that they construct a separate casino.
"We want someone to buy the lodge which is costing us money," explained Sen. George Edwards, a Western Maryland Republican.
The state-funded Rocky Gap Lodge opened in 1998 and includes an 18-hole golf course and conference center. But the lakeside resort has been a drag on the state's finances.
The facility had an operating loss of $3.8 million in fiscal year 2010 and does not generate enough revenue to cover debt payments, according to an analysis by the department of legislative services.
(Photo credit: Julie Bykowicz)
Edwards, whose district included Rocky Gap, said there that prospective bidders have expressed interest in the site if the proposed legislative changes are made.
Rocky Gap is the only of the five voter-approved gaming locations not to attract a serious bidder. Casinos in Cecil County and the Eastern Shore are operating. A fourth casino at Arundel Mills is under construction. The fifth casino in Baltimore in the final stages of litigation, and the state is expected to request new proposals within weeks.