Rhode Island‘s two casinos have the same operator, and now they have something else in common. Both now have outstanding lawsuits against the towns they inhabit, seeking lower property tax assessments for the current year.
The complaints argue that earlier attempts have failed to reach agreements on adjustments to the tax bills have failed and the Rhode Island casinos need the courts’ intervention to rectify the situation. The courts will now decide to what extent the adjustments are necessary.
Bally’s lawsuits seek property tax relief
Bally’s operates casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton in Rhode Island. The company also makes its headquarters in the state capital of Providence. Brian Amaral of the Boston Globe reports that Patti Doyle of Bally’s characterizes the lawsuits as attempts to reach tax stabilization agreements with both towns.
While Doyle insists dialogue is ongoing with both towns, Bally’s seems intent on playing all of its available cards. The lawsuits, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, could ultimately end up just a way to pressure the towns into settlements.
Bally’s argues that the COVID-19 pandemic hurt the casino businesses to the point where the normal property tax assessments were inordinate. In addition to outright closures, the casinos faced restrictions that limited their bottom lines for swaths of 2020 and 2021.
The suits focus on the tax bills for 2021. They ask the courts for the return of overpayments with interest and penalties. The differences in the amounts the towns assessed and what Bally’s believes it actually owes are significant.
Sizeable gap between Bally’s and the towns
The differences in the numbers between the sides amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. David Robert, Tiverton’s tax assessor, puts hard numbers to the gap. Robert shared that the town assessed the value of Bally’s Tiverton Casino & Hotel at $60 million for 2021.
Robert said that if the town had assessed the casino according to Bally’s wishes, that valuation would have dropped to about $41 million. By that estimate, Bally’s tax bill would have been about $266,000 lesser. For reference, Tiverton’s budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 was $1.3 million.
In Lincoln, Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort sought a 30% deduction to its tax bill. The courts will now decide to what degree if any, and they will grant Bally’s request. In the end, though, the lawsuits could turn out to be nothing more than leverage for an out-of-court settlement.