Hellertown Borough council questions timing of local gaming board disbandment
On the cusp of Northampton County ending the Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority, Hellertown Council discussed concerns over an unpaid $1.2 million surplus it has at its disposal.
The authority was established after the opening of the Sands Casino eight years ago. As part of the deal to host the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Northampton County municipalities would receive millions of dollars in grants from slot machine and table game revenues to help finance various municipal needs. That money would be dispersed by the gaming authority.
Hellertown, being one of the closest municipalities to the casino, has been a recipient of grant money from the authority. During that timeframe, Hellertown has used some of the money toward funding the police and fire departments, traffic improvements and other projects.
With a change in state law, grant money now raised by casinos will be handled and distributed by a state run body called the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
With closure of the county gaming authority, questions are being raised about the surplus money it has at its disposal and the perception that Northampton County might keep the money instead of giving it to the municipalities, as was intended. In response, the borough proposed resolution 18-05, which opposes the disbandment of the gaming authority.
Council member Kevin Lott raised serious concerns over the proposed resolution. According to Lott, “I think it’s a bad move on our part…it’s a lose-lose for us, moneywise.” Lott continued to point out that the money was given to the county and it’s up to them to decide where it goes. He summarized by adding “if you can’t win, stay out of the fight.”
Council member Herb Payung disagreed with Lott. He said what the county is doing is an overreach. Payung supports the resolution as a way for the borough to communicate its point of view and reinforce the importance of the program to the borough.
Borough Manager Cathy Hartranft questioned why the gaming authority would be disbanding before the money has been distributed. Hartranft continued “I think everybody understands that…that’s the confusion, why now?”
The board concluded with a 6 to 1 vote in favor of the resolution. Lott was the only dissenting vote.