mid the ongoing coronavirus shutdown, Bethlehem city in Pennsylvania is looking at a $5 million to $7 million budget deficit this year, driven significantly by a reduction in the host fee the city receives from Wind Creek Bethlehem casino.
Mayor Robert Donchez, during a news conference last Thursday, said the city loses more than $800,000 each month the casino is closed. If the closure extends through the end of April, that will amount to more than $1 million, Morning Call reports. The casino was expected to pay Bethlehem a $9.8 million fee this year, city officials said. But the fee is based on gambling revenues and the casino has been closed since March 15.
Wind Creek most recently said the casino would be closed indefinitely after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, the governor shut down all the state’s casinos. Wind Creek committed to paying employees through the end of May.
“There are so many unknowns. We try to make adjustments on particular line items, but it’s very difficult to do. We do not have any lead time on how long the casino could be shutdown,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator.
He warned the $5 million-$7 million deficit is a conservative estimate that could change in the coming weeks. “We definitely took a punch in the gut with this. We are fortunate, in the last several years we have strengthened our financial position and rainy-day fund. By the September-October budget season we should have a clear idea of what damage we are facing,” Evans said.
Other line items in Bethlehem’s $80 million budget that are contributing to the projected deficit include a loss of earned income tax and amusement taxes paid by attractions like Wind Creek and ArtsQuest.
Bethlehem is expected to receive almost $800,000 under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus act, but the city is awaiting guidance on just how that money can be spent.