A Tax on the Roaming Gnome? Legislation Could Fund More Venues | Sports Destination Management

A Tax on the Roaming Gnome? Legislation Could Fund More Venues

Jun 27, 2018 | By: Michael Popke

Looking for a way to pay for new sports tourism projects? Keep an eye on Pennsylvania House Bill 1511. Oh, and the Roaming Gnome as well.

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board is hoping state lawmakers approve legislation that would lead to funding for construction of a $50 million, 150,000-square-foot sports facility on 98 acres in Montgomery County. Plans call for at least 12 outdoor turf fields and about 20 basketball courts.

How might that be possible? By subjecting internet booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz to a hotel tax that could add $20 million to the state’s tourism budget.

“The vision is that bucket of money would be for a sports facility,” Mike Bowman, president and CEO of the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, recently said at a local business gathering. “We just lost another major basketball tournament for Labor Day 2019 because we don’t have anywhere to house [the games].”

The Business Journal reports that a new multi-purpose sports facility in Valley Forge could result in a $100 million economic impact its first year — and climb to $120 million in subsequent years.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Marguerite Quinn introduced a bill that she says will update the state’s tax code. Because it dates back to 1971, the code “doesn’t take into account the ways that online travel companies have transformed hotel booking, and she says the law needs an update to make sure the state is getting the same revenue it has always expected,” according to Watchdog.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

“We’re just looking to modernize the Pennsylvania tax code to reflect the travel purchase environment of today,” Quinn told fellow legislators in May, adding that other states have already passed similar laws.

“The Pennsylvania tourism office … has been severely underfunded during the last eight years,” Fritz Smith, Visit Philadelphia’s vice president of research and industry relations, told Watchdog.org. “[The funds] would help to recover the market share, economic impact and jobs lost while other destinations such as New York, Virginia, Florida, California, Michigan — all those states who ads we see on television every morning have capitalized on our absence from the marketplace by boosting their promotional efforts.”

Joseph Montano, government affairs manager for Expedia, claims online travel booking companies should not be subject to the hotel occupancy tax because they simply help connect hotel and guest — albeit while collecting a fee for facilitating that transaction, Watchdog.org added.

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