PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Rivers Casino seems to do little else but rake in the cash, but according to court papers, its operators say taxes and other obligations are bleeding it dry.
And now it's leading what promises to be a deluge of commercial properties appealing their property assessment over the objections of the Pittsburgh Public Schools District.
"I think all their complaints are ill-founded," said Ira Weiss, the district's solicitor. "In point of fact, we think the property's undervalued."
Technically, the Rivers is appealing last year's assessment but the new one is even higher -- $242 million.
The casino is trying to bring that down by more than $100 million to $136 million.
The operators argue that in addition to state gaming taxes, it's already on the hook to help pay off bonds on the CONSOL Energy Center as well as a host of other local commitments.
They contend that this new assessment will break the bank, but the school district – which depends on property tax revenues – disagrees saying the Rivers knowingly took on all these payments when it got its license.
"They went into this with their eyes wide open," Weiss said. "These are very experienced people."
But they are not alone. BNY Mellon is trying to reduce last year's assessment on their downtown processing center almost by a third.
The bank argues that their current assessment of $104 million is unreasonable and unfair and wants to see it reduced to $67 million.
And while dozens of other downtown building owners are expected to follow suit, the school district intends to stand firm, beginning with a vigorous defense of the casino assessment next week before assessment Judge R. Stanton Wettick.
"It's the first gaming property case to be tried in Pennsylvania, so we think it's appropriate that it be tried in front of a judge," Weiss said.
The casino may be the highest assessed property in the county, but it is only the first of what promises to be a wave of commercial appeals as this controversial assessment process plays itself out over the coming year.
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