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Where’s the casino money?

“Where’s the casino money?” That’s the question I’m most frequently asked regarding all things school budget and it’s a legitimate question but, like so much in this conversation, it’s complicated.

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore summarized it this way on a thread on Facebook:

“County government has no control over the casino legislation or distribution that allocated a portion of the revenues toward the State education fund. Unfortunately, the State didn’t use those funds to supplement education, they used the funds to supplant what they were already funding to local school districts. Counties that have casinos, however, were allocated 5.5% of the revenue from their casino toward local impact aid. We split that with the Town of Perryville (65/35). The law required us to put together a multi-year plan for spending the approx $2M/yr we receive. The County’s plan has funded some capital projects and roads (helps a bit with the 90% of road repair funding the state took away from counties), projects for volunteer fire departments, substance abuse programs, a small business incentive program, non-profit organizations that provide many services to our community, etc. And yes, the Governor’s budget will take away $372K from our FY16 allocation.”

Groups can apply for grants from the casino funds via the Video Lottery Terminal Local Community Grant Program. Here are links to the grants awarded for FY 2014 and FY 2015. Honestly, looking over these lists, I can’t say that they aren’t worthy causes doing good work in our community.

Business is Slower than Projected

No matter how the money generated by the Perryville casino is spent, there’s less of it than originally projected, especially now that other casinos are open in the state:

“…In 2010, Hollywood became Maryland’s first casino, opening in an Art Deco-style building near Interstate 95 in Cecil County and generating more than $2 million in revenue during its first four days, and almost $11.4 million in its first full month.

Its days as a mini-monopoly in Maryland are long past — the state now has five casinos, with a sixth on the way — and Hollywood is trying to position itself for its new reality. In what is now one of the country’s most saturated gambling markets, Hollywood Casino took in $6.2 million in slots and table game revenue in November, down 6.9 percent from a year earlier. And it has fallen far short of what the state projected when slots were legalized…”

Baltimore Sun, 12/29/2014, Once state’s only casino, Hollywood Perryville seeks its new reality

And the Baltimore Sun reported this week in an article titled Maryland casino revenue declines for second month that the results from last month aren’t setting any records, “At Hollywood Casino Perryville, monthly revenue fell $306,286, or 4.9 percent, from January 2014 to $6 million.”

What about Perryville’s Part of the Money?

The headline from a story in the Cecil Whig about Perryville’s portion of the casino money says it all: Casino money starting to dry up for Perryville

Could Cecil County use its portion of the money from the casino on schools?

Maybe a bigger question is: Could Cecil County use its portion of the money from the casino on schools? Not sure. If they could, should they? I don’t know enough about the situation to make an informed opinion.