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Briefs filed in Caesars tax appeal

Attorneys for Harrison County and Caesars Indiana have filed briefs with the Indiana Board of Tax Commissioners as Caesars takes the next step in its appeal for a substantial property tax break.
In the briefs, the two sides recap oral arguments that were made to state tax hearing officers in March.
During that hearing, Harrison County Attorney Gordon D. Ingle asked the officers to disregard factors that, according to the gaming company, caused gambling revenue to fail to meet expectations. Those factors, the county said, are irrelevant.
Caesars contended that its investment in the property at Bridgeport was made based on certain expectations for patronage that fell well short of projections.
Ingle said “bad business decisions” caused the gaming complex’s economic problems. He also said Caesars wanted to “compare figures from boats in operation two or three years, some of them already with hotels.”
Low attendance, allegedly the result of delayed construction of a hotel at Bridgeport, was also not a valid argument, the brief said, because the date a permit for the hotel could be issued was known to Caesars to be uncertain due to archeological concerns.
Caesars’ officials disagreed, saying the extent and duration of the resulting archeological dig was greater than had been anticipated. The dig cost Caesars $14 million.
The county and Caesars debated other factors, included a barge collision with the Glory of Rome, Caesars’ riverboat, and silt buildup at the mooring site, which the company said gave its case merit.
Despite the failure of similar arguments at the county level, Caesars attorney Bill Joyce remains confident.
“We feel strongly that we were right. If not, we wouldn’t have brought the action. How the state tax board will rule, we have no idea, but we feel strongly that the law is on our side,” Joyce said.
Whether Caesars’ economic problems warrant a tax break is ultimately the decision of the state tax commissioners, but some factors the company blames for its economic shortfall continued to be present in 2000, and could result in a similar request if the company chooses to press the issue.
“It was considered six months ago, but no decision has been made at this point,” Joyce said.
Caesars’ appeal seeks a 48 percent deduction. If granted, it would amount to a refund of more than $250,000 for the gaming company.
Depending on the size of the deduction requested, Caesars could easily seek a larger refund for property taxes payable 2001 than that which is currently being debated. The company’s property tax bill amounted to more than $1.3 million this year.