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Tax Exemption Seen As Boost For Convention Center

July 2, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

Jimmy Burchfield loved hosting his September 2006 boxing event at the Connecticut Convention Center - the Hartford facility's newness gave boxing fans accustomed to going to casinos something to look forward to.

But he didn't love the 10 percent per ticket state "admissions tax" he had to pay.

"It's an unfair tax," Burchfield said Thursday. "You can't pass it on to the ticket holder because then the ticket price becomes too expensive. So what you need to do is you've got to absorb it."

Not keen on absorbing it again, Burchfield, along with the staff of the state-owned convention center, lobbied the state legislature to have the center exempted from the tax.

The legislature approved the exemption, with an effective date of July 1.

"This is another way of them being competitive with other convention centers from around the state," said House Speaker James Amann. "It may not be a lot of money, but every nickel adds up."

The state charges 10 percent for every ticket that is bought to enter any place of amusement, entertainment or recreation - from movie theaters to racetracks to ballparks.

It doesn't, though, charge taxes on events at some exempted venues, including the Hartford Civic Center and the Connecticut Expo Center.

Exempting the convention center will cost the state roughly $100,000 in tax revenue a year.

Michael Costelli, the convention center's general manager, told legislative leaders in a letter that the "tax has proved to be extremely burdensome to our sales effort as we actively seek out new events to bring to Connecticut." In asking to have the center exempted from the admissions tax, Costelli said he asked for a "level playing field with our out-of-state competitors."

Jeanne O'Grady, who books events for the convention center, said 12 or 15 ticketed shows a year at the center were subject to the 10 percent tax. The loss of the tax is a good thing, she said.

"It's just one more thing to give someone another reason to choose us," O'Grady said.

On Thursday, Burchfield said he was pleased both with the legislative effort and with the prospect of returning to the city.

"If you're a promoter of any kind, you have to control your costs," Burchfield said. "You can't pass it on to the consumer because you're going to just price the tickets out of the ballpark.

"I think that a lot of people who have never been to the Hartford convention center are now going to have the ability," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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