MONTPELIER — A Republican representative has once again introduced legislation to allow for a casino in Vermont, this time with state revenue benefiting senior citizens.
Rep. Ronald Hubert, R-Milton, has introduced a similar bill each session for the past six years. He said the proposals have varied slightly. With the state facing a significant budget gap in the 2016 fiscal year, Hubert said it could help generate revenue for the state.
“We’re in such desperate need for taxes, how about some voluntary taxes? It’s something that most states have done and the numbers show that we could bring in annually somewhere between $8 million to $15 million to state coffers,” Hubert said.
The bill, which has 17 cosponsors, mostly Republicans, would require the Vermont Lottery Commission to issue a license for the operation of one casino in Vermont. The license would be good for six years and require a $6 million license fee that could be paid in full or split over six years.
The Lottery Commission would have the authority to create rules governing the casino, investigate applicants to determine eligibility and supervise casino operations. The bill calls for a $100,000, nonrefundable application fee.
Hubert’s bill would also create a 10 percent tax on the gross receipts of the casino that would go the general fund.
He said there are between 75 and 100 organized bus trips from Vermont to casinos in surrounding states each year.
“A lot of Vermonters are interested in going to a casino, and there’s more to a casino,” Hubert said.
A casino would also generate additional tax revenue for the state through rooms and meals, alcohol and food sales and the state’s sales tax, Hubert said.
This year Hubert’s bill calls for the 10 percent tax on the casino receipts to be used to help elderly Vermonters. The money generated would be divided by the number of people 65 and older that receive income sensitivity on their property taxes. Those people would receive a payment from the state under the legislation.
Hubert said the money would help elderly Vermonters on fixed incomes that are not keeping pace with inflation.
“These are people that no longer have children in schools and are generally on fixed incomes,” he said.
Hubert said he hopes his new plan for the revenue will draw additional support. He said lawmakers could even opt to use the money to help drawdown federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program.
“I’m certainly hoping so. With the gov looking to put a $110 million payroll tax out there, I’d certainly be open to using it for the Medicaid drawdown,” he said.
Don’t expect to roll the dice any time soon, though.
Scott Coriell, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s spokesman, said Monday that Shumlin is unequivocally opposed to casino gaming in Vermont.
“The governor is not in favor of building casinos in the state, period. As long as he’s governor, he’ll do everything in his power to stop casino gaming in Vermont,” Coriell said.
House Speaker Shap Smith is also opposed to the idea of allowing a casino in Vermont.
“I think that the experience of casinos shows that there’s an over-saturation and that moving in that direction is a bad idea,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of casinos at all as a way to fund state government.”
Smith was blunt about the legislation’s prospects.
“I don’t think that it’s going anywhere,” he said.
Read the proposed legislation below: