Tonawanda News


March 4, 2009

BUSINESS: Bowlers, alley owners hope state will spare them ‘amusement’ tax

Bowlers across Western New York have a little something extra to do between frames these days.

By the thousands, they are filling out comment cards as part of a statewide protest against a proposal by Gov. David Paterson to begin forcing bowling alleys to collect sales tax on every game played.

Owners of local alleys say the move, while intended to help fill the state’s massive budget holes, will hurt yet another group of small business owners who are already struggling to survive in New York.

“Bowling is a blue collar sport,” said Len Pimm, owner of the Tonawanda Bowling Center at 574 Young St. in the City of Tonawanda. “I can’t think of a more regressive tax. Even a tax on food would be fairer because the wealthy need these items, too.”

Paterson’s tentative budget proposal calls for a change in the definition of “amusement” that would allow for the collection of state and local sales taxes at bowling alleys, golf courses, race tracks and other venues where taxes on admission charges did not previously apply. Paterson says the added fees are needed to help close an estimated $14 billion deficit in the state’s 2009-10 budget.

In Erie County, that means an additional 8.75 percent tacked on to per-game fees for the casual bowler and league fees for the serious bowler.

Pimm, who also chairs the state legislature committee for the New York state Bowling Proprietors, said a statewide survey indicates up to 10 percent of bowling alleys could close if the tax is passed. Bowling alleys are already on the decline across upstate New York, he said.

State officials attempted a similar move in 1989 but backed off. Pimm said there were nearly 500 bowling alleys then. Today there are only about 250 with 85 percent of them located upstate, leading Pimm to observe that it would primarily be an upstate tax.

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