Justia Gaming Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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In 2003, the Alabama Legislature and the citizens of Greene County voted to allow nonprofit organizations in that county to operate bingo games for fundraising purposes. Greenetrack, Inc. ("Greenetrack"), which was not a nonprofit organization, almost immediately began offering live and electronic bingo games at its gambling facility. From 2004 to 2008, Greenetrack reaped vast profits under the guise that its whole casino-style bingo operation was constantly being leased and operated by a revolving slate of local nonprofit organizations, whose nominal role earned them a tiny fraction of the bingo proceeds. Eventually, the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department") audited Greenetrack, found that its bingo activities were illegal, and concluded that it owed over $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest. Following a decade of litigation, the Alabama Tax Tribunal voided the assessed taxes on the threshold ground that Greenetrack's bingo business (regardless of its legality) was tax-immune under a statute governing Greenetrack's status as a licensed operator of dog races. The Department appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed, rejecting the statutory analysis offered by the Tax Tribunal and circuit court. Judgment was rendered in favor of the Department. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Greenetrack, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellee Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. (“Greenwood”) operated Parx Casino (“Parx”), located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. During 2014, as part of its efforts to encourage slot machine and table game play, Greenwood distributed to patrons of Parx who played its slot machines and table games various “promotions, giveaways and direct player development:” items given away included cash, department store gift cards, and items of personal property. Parx also gave away tickets to attend live concerts and entertainment performances. In 2016, Greenwood filed a petition for refund with the Board of Appeals of the Department of Revenue (“Board of Appeals”) for the calendar year 2014, contending that it was entitled under Section 1103 of the Pennsylvania Gaming Act to exclude from the taxable revenue attributable to its table games and slot machines the value of all cash and personal property it distributed to the players of those games. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that concert tickets were not services within the meaning of Section 1103, and so were excludible from these taxable revenues. View "Greenwood Gaming v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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After taxpayers filed suit challenging the IRS's deficiency findings and penalties, the tax court sustained the deficiency determinations but rejected the accuracy-related penalties. In this case, the Miccosukee Tribe shared profits from its casino with Tribe members and encouraged its members to hide their payments from the IRS. The taxpayers here followed the Tribe's advice, and they are now subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deficiencies.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the tax court's judgment and rejected taxpayers' assertion that any taxes are barred by the Miccosukee Settlement Act that exempted an earlier land transfer from taxation. Even if the court interpreted the Act as providing an indefinite tax exemption for the "lands" conveyed under it or the agreement, the casino revenues still do not fit the bill because the casino's land was not conveyed under either the Act or the agreement. Furthermore, an exemption for "lands" only exempts income "derived directly" from those lands, and this court has already held that casino revenues do "not derive directly from the land." The court also rejected taxpayers' assertion that the payments are merely nontaxable lease payments from the casino, citing factual and legal problems. Rather, the court concluded that the payments are taxable income. View "Clay v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not preempt the imposition of statewide tax on the gross receipts of a nonmember contractor for services performed in renovating and expanding the Tribe's gaming casino located on the Reservation. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Tribe and held that the Tribe has failed to show that the tax has more than a de minimis financial impact on federal and tribal interests. Furthermore, the State's legitimate interests in raising revenues for essential government programs that benefit the nonmember contractor-taxpayer in this case, as well as its interest in being able to apply its generally applicable contractor excise tax throughout the State, were sufficient to justify imposing the excise tax on the construction services performed on the Casino's realty. Finally, the court granted the State's motion to dismiss the State Treasurer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Haeder" on Justia Law

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In a case brought in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's original jurisdiction, Petitioner Sands Bethworks Gaming, LLC, challenged a recent amendment to Pennsylvania gaming law in which casinos paid a supplemental assessment on slot-machine revenue, and the funds are then distributed primarily to underperforming slot-machine facilities to be used for marketing and capital development. Sands alleged that the amendment violated the Pennsylvania Constitution’s requirement of uniform taxation, its mandate that all enactments have a public purpose, and its rule against special legislation. Sands also claimed the scheme violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. The Supreme Court concluded the amendments were indeed unconstitutional, and the offending parts could be severed from the rest of the statute. Any assessment monies paid to the Commonwealth pursuant to the amended gaming law were ordered to be refunded. View "Sands Bethworks Gaming v. PA Dept of Revenue et al" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this matter was whether sales or use taxes must be paid in relation to two distinct items: the purchase of a closed-circuit horse-racing simulcasting system, and the payment of royalties for intellectual property used in conjunction with the operation of video poker machines. For the Taxpayer's off-track wagering locations, it used video poker machines. Taxpayer entered into a service contract with Teleview Racing Patrol, Inc., pursuant to which Teleview supplied equipment such as screens, satellite dishes, and closed-circuit television feeds. These items were used to provide live displays at each OTW facility of races occurring at Pocono Downs and other tracks across the country. Teleview provided the equipment for this system and, per the agreement, it also supplied personnel to install, maintain, and operate that equipment. In relation to the video poker games, Taxpayer purchased machines from International Gaming Technologies, PLC (“IGT”), on which it paid taxes which are not in dispute. In accordance with a separate intellectual property agreement, Taxpayer also paid IGT royalty fees for intellectual property associated with the various different “themes,” i.e., different poker games that would run on the machines. After a Pennsylvania Department of Revenue audit, Taxpayer was assessed approximately $340,000 in unpaid sales and use taxes, mostly stemming from Taxpayer’s payments to Teleview under the service contract. In challenging the assessment, Taxpayer concluded it had erroneously paid the $13,000 in taxes on its payment of royalty fees to IGT; thus, it sought a refund of those monies. After the Department denied relief, Taxpayer sought review of both matters in the Commonwealth Court, which consolidated the appeals. The court found Teleview consolidated taxable and nontaxable charges on its invoices. The panel thus concluded that Taxpayer had failed to present documentary evidence specifying which portions of the billed amounts were nontaxable, as required by departmental regulations. The Court also rejected Taxpayer's request for a refund on taxes it paid for IGT's royalty fees. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court's order insofar as it upheld the Board of Finance and Revenue's determination relative to the IGT contract, but affirmed in all other respects. View "Downs Racing, LP v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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The Miccosukee Indian Tribe and one of its members raised an affirmative defense that revenue distributions from gaming activities were exempt from taxation as Indian general welfare benefits under the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act (GWEA), 26 U.S.C. 139E. The Eleventh Circuit held that the distribution payments could not qualify as Indian general welfare benefits under GWEA because Congress specifically subjected such distributions to federal taxation in the Indian Gaming Revenue Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.; the member waived any arguments as to penalties or the amount assessed against her, and the tribe lacked a legal interest in those issues; and the district court did not err in entering judgment against the tribe because the tribe intervened as of right and the Government sought to establish its obligation to withhold taxes on the distributions. View "United States v. Jim" on Justia Law

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In connection with its operation of a land-based casino in New Orleans, Jazz Casino Company, L.L.C. (Jazz) entered into contracts with various hotels for rooms made available to casino patrons on a complimentary or discounted basis. Jazz was required to pay for a specific number of rooms for the duration of the contract even if the rooms were not used by Jazz patrons. As a result of these hotel room rentals, hotel occupancy taxes were remitted to the Louisiana Department of Revenue (Department). The taxes consisted of state general sales taxes and sales tax collected on behalf of the following three entities: Louisiana Tourism Promotion District, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, and the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority. In August 2004, Jazz filed three claims for refund with the Department, alleging that Jazz overpaid hotel occupancy taxes for various hotel room rentals from October 1999, and June 2004. Following the denial of its claims by the Department, Jazz filed suit with the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, seeking a determination of overpaid taxes in accordance with La. R.S. 47:1621. Finding that these statutory duties were ministerial, the district court issued a writ of mandamus to the tax collector to compel payment of the tax refund judgment. The court of appeal reversed and recalled the writ due to the lack of evidence needed to obtain a writ of mandamus. Based on the ministerial nature of the constitutional and statutory duties owed by the tax collector in connection with the taxpayer’s refund judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court, and reinstated the district court’s judgment. View "Jazz Casino Co, LLC v. Bridges" on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania statute, prohibiting payment of fire insurance proceeds to named insured when there are delinquent property taxes, is not limited to situations where the named insured is also responsible for those taxes. Conneaut Lake Park, in Crawford County, included a historic venue, “the Beach Club,” owned by the Trustees. Restoration operated the Club under contract with the Trustees. Restoration insured the Club against fire loss through Erie. When the Club was destroyed by fire, Restoration submitted a claim. In accordance with 40 Pa. Stat 638, Erie required Restoration to obtain a statement of whether back taxes were owed on the property. The statement showed $478,260.75 in delinquent taxes, dating back to 1996, before Restoration’s contract, and owed on the entire 55.33-acre parcel, not just the single acre that included the Club. Erie notified Restoration that it would transfer to the taxing authorities $478,260.75 of the $611,000 insurance proceeds. Erie’s interpleader action was transferred after the Trustees filed for bankruptcy. Restoration argued that Section 638 applied only to situations where the owner of the property is insured and where the tax liabilities are the financial responsibility of the owner. The Third Circuit reinstated the bankruptcy court holding, rejecting Restoration’s argument. The statute does not include any qualifications. When Restoration insured the Club, its rights to any insurance proceeds were subject to the claim of the taxing authorities. Without a legally cognizable property interest, Restoration has no cognizable takings claim. View "In re: Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc." on Justia Law