Detroit Considers Charging A Per-Ticket ‘Amusement Tax’ for Shows at Large Venues

In response to the growing need for additional revenue sources to fund essential services and infrastructure improvements, Council Member Angela Whitfield-Calloway has proposed the implementation of an amusement tax in Detroit. This initiative aims to capitalize on the success of large-scale entertainment events hosted in the city, such as concerts and sporting events, to generate funds that can be reinvested into local communities. The resolution has been submitted to the Legislative Policy Division (LPD), and the Detroit City Council is set to vote on the proposal in the upcoming session on Tuesday, January 23.


The proposed amusement tax is not a novel idea, as the majority of U.S. states already levy similar taxes on large entertainment events. In 2018 alone, state and local governments collected $8.87 billion through amusement taxes. Detroit stands to collect millions of dollars annually if the tax is instated. Despite this widespread practice, Michigan cities hosting major events have been unable to benefit from this potential revenue stream.

Detroit, home to several prominent concert venues and stadiums hosting professional sports teams and events, stands to gain significantly from the implementation of an amusement tax. The influx of millions of attendees to these events places a certain strain on local infrastructure and services, necessitating substantial investments in areas such as road maintenance, traffic management, security, and sanitation.

Benefits of Amusement Tax:

The proposed amusement tax offers several advantages for the city and its residents. Firstly, it provides a stable source of revenue to offset the costs associated with hosting large events, ensuring that the increased traffic is effectively managed. Unlike property taxes, amusement taxes are paid only by those who choose to attend events, minimizing controversy and maintaining accessibility for all.

Furthermore, the legislation allows local governments to determine the implementation of the tax, tailoring it to best serve their communities. Apart from funding infrastructure and services, a portion of the revenue generated could be allocated to support local arts, cultural events, and community programs. This inclusive approach aims to foster local talent, promote culture, and enhance accessibility to events for disadvantaged communities.

Historical Attempts and Considerations:

There have been previous attempts to implement the amusement tax in Michigan. Despite three attempts between 2017 and 2019, there was insufficient support from the legislature to pass the bills. In 2018, Senate Bill 0884, known as the “Sporting Entertainment Tax Act,” advocated for the imposition of an excise tax amounting to $3.00 per paid entry at entertainment events, which would include concerts or professional sporting events that had a seating capacity of 5,000 or more.

Opposition, primarily from venue owners, cited concerns about potential attendance declines. However, recent industry trends, including increased ticket prices and fees, suggest that a modest amusement tax may not significantly affect attendance.

The proposed legislation encompassed a broad spectrum of “entertainment events,” comprising zoos, live theater, museums, opera, professional sporting events, concerts, temporary or transient entertainment productions, botanical gardens, amusement parks, and temporary or transient art, music, theatrical, dance, literary, or cultural festivals. Notably, certain events were exempted from the tax, including high school, middle school, or elementary school events, those sponsored by nonprofit or charitable organizations, and collegiate athletic events.

The official report highlights the potential revenue Detroit could generate from an amusement tax, considering different tax rates and ticket pricing models. To navigate this potential issue, Detroit’s policymakers must carefully consider the specific terms of the amusement tax implementation. Setting a reasonable tax rate and collaborating with ticketing agencies to minimize additional fees can help alleviate concerns.

The Amusement Tax Dilemma:

The introduction of an amusement tax, while intended to generate revenue for essential services and cultural programs, raises questions about the cumulative financial impact on eventgoers. Will the imposition of both ticket fees and an amusement tax create an undue burden on attendees? This concern stems from the notion that the total cost of attending events may become prohibitively high, potentially affecting overall attendance rates.

Ticketing agencies have come under scrutiny for imposing substantial fees on event tickets, often comprising a significant portion of the overall cost. These fees, which can amount to around 30% of the ticket price, have raised eyebrows among consumers. Critics argue that such practices make live events less accessible and add a financial burden on attendees.

The potential introduction of an amusement tax in Detroit emerges as a practical remedy to meet the city’s financial requirements while ensuring minimal repercussions for its residents. The impending vote by the Detroit City Council stands as the pivotal moment for this proposal, holding the key to potential advantages such as infrastructure development, cultural enhancement, and bolstered community support. The council’s verdict is poised to influence the trajectory of funding for expansive events in Detroit, shaping a significant aspect of the city’s future.

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