Legislator: Delta Downs Tax Dispute Won't Linger

by Hector San Miguel

State Rep. Ronnie Johns said a dispute between the Louisiana Racing Commission and Delta Downs over head-tax payments could be resolved by March 8, when the racing commission meets in New Orleans.

The commission is at odds with Delta Downs over its refusal to pay a 25-cent head tax. State law requires racetracks to pay the head tax for patrons who enter their doors, but Boyd Racing, owner of Delta Downs, contends the law doesn't apply to the slot-machine parlor.

Johns, who represent the Vinton, La., area in which the track is located, said the head tax is known as the"pari-mutuel tax" and has been a law for years. "That's the tax that basically helps the racing commission operate, and then any excess revenue is then remitted back to the state's general fund," he said.

Johns said the head tax once generated so much money for the commission it sent as much as $10 million a year back to the state. The amount has now dropped to less than $400,000 a year.

"Now the question is who is going to see the races, and who is going into the casino?" Johns said. "There was misinformation on both sides."

Johns said the licenses of Boyd Racing employees aren't in jeopardy even though that issue is listed on the commission's agenda. He predicted a resolution.

"There is a way to negotiate this thing and come up with something that is fair and equitable to both sides," John said. "I think Boyd is going to agree to pay a certain amount of head tax."

A spokesman for Boyd Racing, which opened the slots parlor Feb. 13 to huge crowds, said he wouldn't comment until the racing commission meeting.