Luzerne County hires expert to help value Mohegan Sun Pocono casino for taxation purposes

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | February 5th, 2016 6:46 pm

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Mohegan Sun Pocono casino Sun Pocono casino

Luzerne County has hired Media, Pennsylvania-based Coyle, Lynch & Company to calculate a new assessed value for the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino, according to a contract posted on the county website.

The company will be paid $56,000 to complete its analysis and prepare a report, the contract says. The new value should be tallied by the end of March, officials said.

The Plains Township casino has no current assessment because its tax payments were covered by a 2007 court-ordered assessment appeal agreement that expired the end of 2015. That agreement wasn’t tied to an assessed value.

The county assessor’s office did not have a casino valuation ready when the court order expired because it had to find a new outside expert.

County officials wanted an expert’s input because casino valuations are complicated. Several other Pennsylvania counties with casinos have used a a similar approach.

County officials had retained San Francisco-based HVS Gaming for $92,000 in October to complete a valuation, but canceled the contract in December after discovering the company had previously completed appraisal work for another casino affiliated with Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

This prior work could present a conflict of interest if the county needed HVS to provide expert testimony in a court-level assessment challenge that may be filed by the local Mohegan Sun casino, officials said. Mohegan Sun alerted the county to the potential conflict. The county did not pay HVS.

According to the new contract, Coyle, Lynch & Company representatives will be paid additional hourly fees ranging from $100 to $350 if they are requested to prepare and provide testimony and attend hearings for an assessment challenge in 2017.

Testimony fees would be capped at $25,000 in 2017, the contract says.

County Assessment Office Director Anthony Alu has said the delay won’t allow the casino to escape taxation in 2016. The casino’s 2016 tax bill will be mailed later this year and be retroactive to Jan. 1, Alu said.

The casino will have the right to file a challenge within 40 days of receiving the new assessment, Alu said.

Mohegan Sun’s 2015 tax payment — a combined $2.9 million to the school, county and township — was not linked to a specific assessment, but a property charged that amount of taxes would be valued around $125 million based on current tax rates.

The breakdown of the $2.9 million payment: Wilkes-Barre Area School District, $2.01 million; county, $653,360; and township, $261,460.

Listed under Connecticut-based Downs Racing LP, the Mohegan Sun complex is 264 acres.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.