Casinos give boost to Chester budget

Harrah's casino in Chester

With the slots income, the city has balanced its ledger for the last two years and set up a rainy-day fund.

In the year before Harrah's opened, for example, the spending gap was $7.5 million, according to Thomas Moore, chief of staff to Chester's mayor.

"If Harrah's went away tomorrow and on the expense side of the equation, everything was equal . . . real estate taxes would have to go up by 200 percent," he said. "It's a significant portion of Chester's budget."

Money from Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack also has reached the city in other ways, including employment, charitable donations, and the purchase of supplies locally.

The Pennsylvania law that legalized slots parlors requires that 55 percent of annual gaming revenue be split among state, county, and local governments. The state is using most of its share to reduce local property taxes and Philadelphia wage taxes.

Municipalities with casinos receive a minimum of $10 million a year, or more if slots revenue exceeds certain levels. Philadelphia is expected to collect an estimated $26.2 million annually from its two planned slots venues.

Bensalem, home of PhiladelphiaPark Casino & Racetrack, has received $22 million in the last two years. The township used $6 million of that to hire 19 police officers, Finance Manager John McGinley said. The money also helped fund a new park, he said.