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Sands Event Center vows to fight proposed entertainment tax

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 10 2012 04:12:18 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 12 2012 06:36:29 AM CST

The battle lines are being drawn between the Sands Casino's Event Center and Bethlehem's mayor over a controversial new tax proposal.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

The battle lines are being drawn between the Sands Casino Events Center and Bethlehem's mayor over a controversial new tax proposal.

It's a fee that would cost you more any time you go to a concert or event.

 "A five-percent tax on the cost of that ticket, so if it's a $50 ticket, it would be an extra $2.50," said Mayor John Callahan, D-Bethlehem.

Callahan is calling for a new entertainment tax, along with asking the average homeowner to pay roughly $200 more a year in property taxes.  It's an idea we found a surprising amount of support for.

 "I understand," Brenda Dwinal said.  "I would rather that, than see more people laid off."

But the Sands Casino is fighting back, claiming the tax would hurt an events center that invested $10 million in this struggling city.  "One incentive behind coming to the city of Bethlehem," said Event Center partner Jerry Deifer Jr., "was the lack of a city-wide amusement tax."

 In spite of that all though, most people we spoke to said they would be willing to pay more for concerts and events here, to help the city out.

 "Oh yeah," said Darius Aidala.  "Definitely."

 "No problem," added Dwinal.  "I would still go to concerts, absolutely."

 According to Callahan, higher taxes are needed to pay for police and fire pensions -- a problem plaguing other cities too. 

Allentown's mayor has proposed leasing the city's water and sewer system for the next 50 years, while Easton proposed a controversial commuter tax.

 "It's a little irritating contemplating having to pay for other people's pensions," Aidala said.  "I'm not making a lot of money and I know a lot of other people aren't making a lot of money, so I wish they would find out something other than on the backs of the taxpayers."

Callahan isn't actually calling this an "entertainment" tax.  He said it's a "first responder" tax, but the Sands points out that it already pays directly for the crews that work events there.