Casino’s property assessment appeal going to mediation

March 19, 2013
An interior view of The Meadows Casino (O-R file photo)

A nearly five-year dispute over what The Meadows casino and parking garage is worth for county and school taxing purposes is headed for mediation.

Two of the mediators proposed in court Tuesday morning to handle the matter were Donald E. Ziegler, former Allegheny County and federal court chief judge; and Eugene Scanlon Jr., former Allegheny County judge.

The mediation would not be open to the public, which attorneys for both sides said is typical of proceedings of that nature.

“I will give you a trial date in the event it doesn’t settle,” Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca told the participants in a status conference Tuesday morning.

If the matter goes to trial, a judge, not a jury, would decide the case.

“This is complex because we’re dealing with a unique property,” said Brad Boni, Washington County chief assessor.

In 2009, the property owner at that time, Ladbroke Racing Pennsylvania Inc., appealed the $19.9 million tax assessment, the highest in Washington County. In its court filing, it sought an assessment of $10 million.

The owner of the property is now Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts Pennsylvania Racing Inc.

“We cannot disclose what we’re demanding and what they are offering,” said attorney Herman Bigi, one of three in court on behalf of The Meadows, after the conference with the judge.

The racetrack and casino is Canon-McMillan School District’s largest single taxpayer. “If the assessment goes to what (The Meadows is proposing), a refund will be substantial,” said Blane Black, solicitor for the county tax assessment office.“We’re hoping the casino will be good corporate citizens and resolve this in a way that is tolerable for all parties.”

North Strabane Township is the third local governmental body that receives property tax revenue from The Meadows casino, but, as the host municipality, it also receives a yearly percentage of the revenue from its operations. In addition, a local share of casino revenue, set aside by the state, is used to fund projects in all parts of the county.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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