Justia Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Gaming 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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SugarHouse HSP Gaming ("SugarHouse"), the holder of a Category 2 slot machine license for a casino it operated in Philadelphia, and Market East Associates, L.P. ("Market East"), an unsuccessful applicant for the Category 2 license awarded to Stadium Casino, LLC (“Stadium”), both filed petitions for review ofa Supplemental Adjudication issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, in which the Board awarded the last remaining Category 2 license. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court dismissed SugarHouse's petition for review, finding it was not entitled to intervene in the proceedings on remand. In Market East's petition for review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Board's determination that Watche Manoukian, an individual who is an affiliate of Stadium, was not eligible to apply for a Category 1 slot machine license at the time of Stadium's application for its Category 2 license, and, thus, that Section 1304(a)(1) of the Gaming Act would not be violated by the issuance of a Category 2 license to Stadium. However, the Court reversed the Board's determination of what constitutes a "financial interest" as that term was used in Section 1330, and defined that term in this opinion. Because the Board admitted that it did not determine the nature of the specific "equity infusion" Manoukian would supply post-licensure to the trust which has an ownership interest in Stadium, the Court could not affirm the Board's conclusion that Manoukian would not be in violation of Section 1330's 33.3% limit on the possession of a financial interest in a Category 2 slot machine licensee by another slot machine licensee. Thus, the Court again remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Market East Assoc. v. PA Gaming Control Bd." on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged as unconstitutional certain restrictions imposed upon attorneys who were employed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (Board), and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Board filed preliminary objections, asserting petitioner lacked standing to pursue her claim, her claim was not yet ripe, and in any event, her claim failed on the merits. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled the Board’s preliminary objections as to standing and ripeness, but nevertheless concluded petitioner was not entitled to relief on the merits as the restrictions included in the Gaming Act were constitutionally sound. View "Yocum v. PA Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law

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Mount Airy #1, LLC operated a hotel and casino located in Mount Pocono. Mount Airy challenged the constitutionality of Section 1403(c) of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. That section levied a “local share assessment” against all licensed casinos’ gross slot machine revenue. According to Mount Airy, the statutory provision violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it imposed grossly unequal local share assessments upon similarly situated slot machine licensees. After review of the parties' arguments, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the local share assessment was a non-uniform tax of the sort prohibited by Article 8, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Therefore, the Court severed Subsections 1403(c)(2) and (c)(3) from the Gaming Act. View "Mount Airy #1, LLC v. Pa. Dept. of Revenue, et al." on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reviewed challenges by petitioners SugarHouse HSP Gaming, LP (“SugarHouse”), then-present holder of a Category 2 slot machine license and operator of the Sugar House Casino in the City of Philadelphia, and Market East Associates (“Market East”), an unsuccessful applicant for that license. SugarHouse and Market East challenged the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's (“Board”) grant of the last remaining Category 2 slot machine license for the City of Philadelphia to Stadium Casino, LLC (“Stadium”). Upon review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court determined additional information was required on the issue of whether Stadium was ineligible to apply for a Category 2 license. The Board was affirmed in part and vacated in part. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Sugarhouse HSP Gaming, LP v. Pa. G.C.Bd." on Justia Law

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In 2009, intervenor-requestor James Schneller of Eastern Pennsylvania Citizens Against Gambling, sent an email to Catherine Stetler, a press aide in the Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (“GCB”), requesting copies of communications between the GCB and several applicants for gaming licenses, as well as copies of the financial data that each applicant provided to the GCB. He also asked for permission to speak at the GCB’s next public hearing, and copied his request to the GCB’s Director of Media Relations and Chief Enforcement Counsel. It was undisputed that requestor did not make mention of any open-records officer in his written request. The press aide responded to the written request by return email, wherein she apologized for having been out of the office and attached a public comment sign-up form with instructions to return the completed form for permission to comment at the GCB’s public hearing on the following day. The aide did not otherwise respond to the request for records, and did not forward the request to the GCB’s open-records officer. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the requirements for written Right-to-Know-Law (RTKL) requests for access to public records, the proper application of the provision which directs that all such requests “must be addressed to the open-records officer.” The Court held that in order to establish a valid RTKL request sufficient to trigger appellate rights from a nonresponse under the RTKL, the requestor must address his request to the respective open-records officer as mandated in Section 703. View "PA Gaming Control Brd. v. Office of Open Records" on Justia Law

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Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment appealed the Commonwealth Court's en banc decision overruling exceptions and affirming a panel decision of that court, which likewise affirmed the order of the Board of Finance and Review regarding calculation of a slot machine tax. Greenwood petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the decision and hold that the relevant section of the Gaming Act (4 Pa.C.S. sections 1101-1904) allowed for the cost of promotional awards given away by the gaming facility to be subtracted prior to calculation of the "gross terminal revenue" for purposes of slot machine taxes. Upon review of the arguments of the parties, the Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings: "to be deductible, the promotional awards must result from playing slot machines, and Greenwood is obligated to prove as much. After review of the Stipulation, we conclude that questions of fact remain concerning whether the specific awards claimed are a 'result of playing a slot machine.'" View "Greenwood Gaming v. PA Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Mason-Dixon Resorts, L.P. made a direct appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board decision that awarded a Category Slot Machine 3 slot machine license to intervenor Woodlands Fayette, L.L.C. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed: "[w]e have no doubt that there may have been other applicants for this remaining Category 3 license, including appellant, whose facilities may not have been appropriate for the award of a license. Our task, however, is not to determine for ourselves which of the facilities was the best one, but instead to pass upon the specific claims raised, under the standard review established by the Act. . . . finding no error warranting relief, we affirm the Board's Order." View "Mason-Dixon Resorts v. PA Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law