The Herald Bulletin

July 31, 2013

Anderson Speedway liquor license in jeopardy

Track owners owe more than $100,000 in property taxes

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Action Entertainment, the company that owns Anderson Speedway, could lose its liquor license in October if it doesn't pay more than $100,000 in back property taxes owed to Madison County, officials said Wednesday.

Because the company is delinquent, County Treasurer Kelly Gaskill placed the Speedway on a list of properties to be sold at tax sale. That action could force state officials to revoke the company's liquor license.

Action Entertainment's permit was scheduled for renewal on July 21, according to documents on file with the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.

With that deadline looming, Action Entertainment President Rick Dawson requested an emergency hearing in Madison County Circuit Court on July 19, to resolve some of the issues.

Judge Thomas Newman Jr. agreed to remove the Speedway from the county's tax sale list, and accepted Dawson's offer to immediately pay $25,000 on the outstanding property tax bill, which totaled $125,236.32 at the time of the hearing, said County Treasurer Kelly Gaskill.

But she balked at agreeing to sign a property tax clearance form that would certify that Dawson's property tax payments are current.

Alcoholic beverage permits in Indiana are renewed annually. One of the questions on the renewal application asks if a permit holder's sales and property taxes for the past year, and taxes currently due, have been paid.

"My job is to either certify that there are no delinquent taxes, or to withhold certification if there are delinquent taxes," Gaskill said.

Action Entertainment President Rick Dawson conceded the company owes the county back taxes, but he contests the amount.

"The dispute involves the assessed value of Anderson Speedway, the amount of taxes that are actually owed and penalties," Dawson said in a prepared statement issued in response to questions from The Herald Bulletin. "Once the issues are resolved, Action Entertainment will pay all the property taxes owed in a reasonable amount of time."

Dawson said he has filed an appeal contesting the assessed value of the Speedway with Assessor Larry Davis' office.

Gaskill called Newman's decision to remove Action Entertainment from the tax sale list a good one.

"It was good for the county because we collected $25,000, and it was good for Mr. Dawson because it gives him more time to save the racetrack," she said.

Dawson said the years following the recession were challenging, but the Speedway's fortunes have turned around.

"We're having a great year, as we have for the past two," Dawson said in an interview last week. He said track operators have tried to make the Speedway more family friendly.

"Those changes are poised to pay huge dividends not only this year, but in the future," he added. "We've been able to weather the hard times and have been working to get everything cleaned up, and this is one of the last things."

Gaskill said records show Dawson's property tax problems go back to at least 2008.

Melissa Coxey, a staff attorney for the state commission, said before revoking an applicant's license for nonpayment of property taxes the commission would likely conduct a hearing to determine the facts of the case.

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