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Edmiston v. Louisiana Riverboat Gaming Partnership

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

September 9, 2019

BOBBY W. EDMISTON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS BOSSIER PARISH ASSESSOR Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
LOUISIANA RIVERBOAT GAMING PARTNERSHIP D/B/A DIAMOND JACKS CASINO & RESORT AND THE LOUISIANA TAX COMMISSION Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 155, 448 Honorable Edward Charles Jacobs, Judge.

          WIENER, WEISS & MADISON Counsel for Appellant, Reid A. Jones Bobby W. Edmiston in -and- his official capacity as BRIAN A. EDDINGTON Bossier Parish Assessor

          KEAN MILLER LLP Counsel for Appellees, Scott L. Zimmer Louisiana Riverboat Gaming Partnership d/b/a Diamond Jacks Casino & Resort

          FAIRCLOTH MELTON SOBEL Counsel for Appellee, & BASH, LLC Louisiana Tax Franklin “Drew” Hoffman Commission -and- ROBERT D. HOFFMAN, JR., APLC

          Before PITMAN, STONE, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         This appeal involves a challenge by the Louisiana Riverboat Gaming Partnership d/b/a DiamondJacks Casino and Resorts ("DiamondJacks") regarding the valuation of its property and resulting 2017 assessment of ad valorem taxes by Bobby W. Edmiston, in his Official Capacity as Bossier Parish Assessor (the "Assessor"). The Louisiana Tax Commission (the "LTC") ruled in favor of DiamondJacks. On review before the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court, Parish of Bossier, State of Louisiana, the district court entered judgment and reversed in part, affirmed in part, remanded to the Assessor for reappraisal, and remanded to the LTC to review the correctness of the Assessor's revised assessment. The Assessor appeals, and the LTC answers the appeal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This appeal stems from the valuation and resulting assessment by the Assessor of property owned by DiamondJacks in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. Specifically at issue is the correctness of the Assessor's ad valorem tax assessment for 2017 on property owned by DiamondJacks-a riverboat casino and hotel in Bossier Parish. Also part of DiamondJacks' property is an employee parking lot and R/V lot. All of the property sits on approximately 37 acres.[1]

         The Assessor valued DiamondJacks' property at $69, 967, 020 (the "2017 assessment"). Of significance, DiamondJacks had previously challenged the 2013 assessment by the Assessor. The LTC ultimately reviewed that assessment, and its staff appraiser, Brian Eubanks, prepared an appraisal of the same property at issue in this appeal. In its 2015 decision regarding that challenge, the LTC adopted Eubanks' appraisal, and it was undisputed by the Assessor, who used it for his 2013 assessment. Subsequently, the 2017 assessment was calculated using that appraisal by Eubanks, and broken down by the various parcels consisting of the following valuations:

Casino Pavilion and Hotel: $51, 356, 000
Employee Lot: 2, 597, 100
R/V Lot: 4, 924, 700
Personal Property: 11, 089, 220[2]
Total: $69, 967, 020

         DiamondJacks challenged the 2017 assessment to the Bossier Parish Board of Review, which affirmed the Assessor's assessment.

         After the board of review affirmed the Assessor, DiamondJacks challenged the 2017 assessment to the LTC, arguing the Assessor erred in the assessment, and submitted the correct valuations should be $27, 000, 000-broken down as follows:

Casino Pavilion and Hotel: $17, 092, 518
Employee Lot: 1, 211, 051
R/V Lot: 2, 296, 431
Personal Property: 6, 400, 000
Total: $27, 000, 000

         At an open meeting and appeal hearing on December 6, 2017, the LTC considered testimony and evidence submitted on behalf of the Assessor and DiamondJacks. The LTC considered the Assessor's valuation, as well as the testimony of two additional appraisers who valued the property: Edwin Litolff on behalf of DiamondJacks and Eubanks, the LTC's own staff appraiser. Among other witnesses, the Assessor also testified.

         On February 26, 2018, the LTC filed its Reasons for Decision, wherein it concluded the property should be valued at $36, 489, 220. In using an income approach, the LTC assigned the following fair market value of the property as follows:

Casino Pavilion and Hotel: $22, 271, 000
Employee Lot: 1, 096, ...

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