Using Casino Revenues for Local Development in Massachusetts

by Jim Hall

MassachusettsWhile the first large casinos for Massachusetts are some time away from producing tax revenues, local and state officials are already considering what the money could be used for.

Across the United States, casino gaming is used to create tax revenues that are used for a variety of needs. Some states use casino revenues for police and fire departments while others create programs to help the elderly. In any case, the revenues are an important stream of funds that come in handy when states are trying to create budgets and bringing in extra money to their coffers. In Massachusetts, it is still some time before tax revenue from the first large casinos will begin to roll in but that has not stopped officials from trying to figure out what they can do with the money.

Economic Development

State officials as well as local officials of Massachusetts are currently trying to figure out how they are going to spend the tax revenues from the first big casinos of the state. Letters were sent to regional planning organizations as well as local towns by Bruce Stebbins of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in order to invite individuals to submit strategies to apply for gambling tax revenues that would be used for projects locally.

These proposals are to be turned in by the 15th of September. Local communities were asked to come together to create partnerships regionally so that resources and funding could be pooled along with gaming revenues. The strategies were then to be placed on a white paper and presented to lawmakers of the state.

Paige Duncan, the Planning Director, stated that she has already sent letters to local stakeholders to help promote the plan and funds from gaming taxes would be allocated after legislation is created to do so. It is believed that many groups will come forward with plans and ideas to boost the development of the local economy as well as tourism. Such ideas include creating a shuttle service that would be used to transport passengers from to the Foxboro commuter rail service to employers or the Wrentham Outlets mall.

Still a Year Away

Unfortunately, the tax revenues from the bigger casinos planned for Springfield and Boston are a year away, at least. The gaming venues could be delayed which would mean such funds would also be delayed. Any funds provided from gaming would be quite beneficial to help boost the local economy.

According to officials, the revenues created from small gaming venues have been beneficial. So, considering how much larger gaming venues can create, the options could be endless.

The Gaming Commission has estimated that the larger venues could generate as much as $300 million in a year. This is based on the 25% take by the state of all revenues from gaming. Only 9.5% of that $300 million would be used for economic development.

The MGM Springfield venue is set to open next year and would be the first to begin providing tax revenues. This casino cost $950 million to create. Wynn Boston Harbor, a project of Steve Wynn, is the next casino in the state scheduled to open. This venue will not be in operation until 2019, so there would still be some time before it would be able to provide additional revenues for the state.

It will be interesting to see just how much tax revenues the two gaming venues will be able to create. Groups have only a few more days to get their ideas in to be considered for the economic development percentage that will be available once the casinos have launched.