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Maryland’s 67% slots tax rate “problematic”

Hollywood Casino Perryville is one year old — well, one year and four days old — and those 12 months of slot machine gambling in Maryland left me with too much material to shoe-horn into Friday’s story on how the Cecil County casino is growing up.

Here are a few more tidbits:

Perryville general manager Bill Hayles said he would “love to” have a conversation with lawmakers about lowering Maryland’s 67 percent tax on slot machine revenue.

“A 67 percent tax rate obviously minimizes the reinvestment you can put back into your property, when you’re only taking 30 cents out of the dollar and then you have to pay the light bill and wages,” he said. “It’s not like Atlantic City at an 8 percent tax rate where they can give back a lot more into their properties and their customers. So, we’re kind of at a disadvantage at that tax rate.”

Atlantic City and Nevada are indeed in the single digits with their tax rates — Nevada casinos pay just 6.75 percent on slots revenue — and because of that, those areas get the big, glitzy casinos with all the extra amenities. Maryland, however, is not alone on the high end of the tax spectrum.

Here are the tax rates in other gambling states nearby (data from the American Gaming Association):

Delaware: 57.79 percent

Pennsylvania: 55 percent

West Virginia: 54.14 percent

New York: 66.53 percent

“I think there’s a recognition that the mid-Atlantic region is a very high-tax region,” said James Karmel, a gaming analyst and associate professor of history at Harford Community College. “But I think Maryland’s 67 percent is particularly problematic for growing a successful casino industry here in the state.”

The tax rates on table games are much lower, and that’s a debate you’ll likely see in the 2012 session as lawmakers press to get a referendum on the November ballot.

Those table games change the casino clientele. Right now, according to Perryville’s marketing director Marc DeLeo, the crowd skews a little older, and a little more female. Table games bring in younger gamblers and more men.

Hayles and DeLeo also said they scout other casinos in the area to see what they’re offering and how they’re luring in gamblers. Both veterans of the Atlantic City market, where such visits were once taboo, they said casino executives have softened to the practice.

“We competitive shop, sure. It’s part of the business,” Hayles said. “And I know that we get shopped as well by the Delaware people. We’re happy to have them here.

3 comments

  1. How did Ohio get such a poor tax rate, 33%, compared to the states listed below?

    Delaware: 57.79 percent

    Pennsylvania: 55 percent

    West Virginia: 54.14 percent

    New York: 66.53 percent

  2. They aren’t greedy.

  3. I would think the solution to the high tax is don’t build a $500 million facility if you are offered only 33% of the take.

    Adults went into this deal with eyes wide open, right?