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Lawmakers attempt to strike deal on casino relief

Delaware Public Media

Gov. John Carney met with a pair of lawmakers yesterday in a last ditch effort to prop up state casino revenue.

He met with State Sens. Brian Bushweller and Harris McDowell Tuesday to negotiate a new deal for the First State’s three casinos.

Currently the state takes about 43 percent of the revenue casinos generate. But legislation from Bushweller would change the revenue sharing structure, lower the rate for table games and do away with the game license fee.

Offering that relief could cost the state around $20 million in lost revenue. McDowell, who is the chair of the Joint Finance Committee and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, considers it a waste of taxpayer money.

But Bushweller argues it’s in the economic interest of state to support businesses that provide thousands of jobs.

“If we can readjust the formulas for the state’s take, we can stabilize the industry and preserved the revenue then that was going to the state and maybe even increase that revenue over a period of time,” he said.

The state legislature raised its casino revenue share to 43.5 percent in 2009. The state’s three casinos argue the current structure compromises their ability to be successful.

“When you take both Dover Downs and Midway Slots is the largest private sector employer in Kent County," he said. "If we don’t fix the damage that we’ve done to that industry soon, we’re going to start experiencing the negative economic consequences from our inaction.”

Under Bushweller’s proposal, casinos would pay between 32 percent to 43.5 percent depending on their daily revenue.

McDowell said the Finance Committee could consider the legislation Wednesday if Carney can’t strike a deal. He opposes the bill, saying it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

But Carney has asked the Senate president to hold the bill until the state gets revenue numbers in May.