Councilman bets on video poker tax

Revised plan estimated to bring $5 million jackpot to city

May 04, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

A proposed tariff on video poker machines in bars, gas stations and convenience stores could bring the city more than $5 million in revenue, said Baltimore City Councilman Robert W. Curran, who introduced on Tuesday a revision to his plan to tax the machines.

Under Curran's proposal, taxes ranging from $1,250 to $2,250 would be levied on the devices and the owners would be exempt from state admissions and amusement taxes, which they are currently required to pay.

According to a 2006 study conducted by the Abell Foundation, owners of the machines appear to grossly underreport the amount of money they make from the machines. Additionally, in some locations they are used for illegal gambling, Curran said.

"These are tax scofflaws that have been having a good run for a long time," Curran said, adding that the funds generated by the tariff could help the city close an unprecedented $121 million gap in its $2.2 billion budget .

Last year, Curran introduced a bill that would levy a flat $3,000 excise tax on each machine, but the proposal was never voted out of the council's taxation and finance committee.

Under the current plan, vendors would pay a graduated tax depending on the number of devices they own.

Several council members, including President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said previously that the $3,000 tax was too steep. Young said Tuesday that he approved of Curran's revised proposal and would urge Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, chair of the taxation committee, to speed a vote.

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