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Massachusetts Casino Gaming Revenue Supports Statewide Art and Education Programs, Providing More Than $3 Million in Local Grant Awards through Mass. Cultural Council

At an MGC public meeting on June 4, Anita Walker, the Executive Director of the Mass. Cultural Council, presented information to the Commission about the organization’s Gaming Mitigation Program, along with the $3.34 million in grants awarded in May 2020 as a result of the initiative.

The Mass Cultural Council partners with communities across the Commonwealth to expand access, improve education, promote diversity, and encourage excellence in the arts, humanities, and sciences.

“The Expanded Gaming Law created 25 percent tax on Gross Gaming Revenue and two percent of the revenues flow to the Massachusetts Cultural Council,” said Jill Griffin, the MGC’s director of workforce, supplier and diversity development. “One quarter of the revenues is dedicated to the organization and three quarters is dedicated to mitigating the effects of the casinos on performing arts centers.”

The Gaming Mitigation Program was established by the expanded gaming law to support not-for-profit and municipally-owned performing arts centers impacted as a result of the entertainment options provided by the gaming facilities. The program is intended to support non-profit and municipal performing arts centers in Massachusetts by providing capital to preserve their ability to compete in a new environment due to the presence of casinos in Massachusetts.

“This program really was built into the original legislation that legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Walker during the June 4 public meeting. “The purpose is to compensate for the marketplace disruption the casinos bring in competing with our nonprofit presenting organizations for nationally-touring artists.”

“We designed this program in collaboration with the organizations in the field,” Walker continued. “We’ve done surveys, had focus groups all across the Commonwealth, we had a design team that was made up of members of the presenting arts organizations. We have finally just in the last week or so made our first round of grants to mitigate the impact of casino gambling.”

Walker explained that, as of February 29, there was $4.7 million dollars in the fund available to the Mass. Cultural Council, and $3.34 million, three-quarters of the fund, was utilized to help organizations that are presenting organizations in competition with the casinos.

In total, 52 grants were given out in the first round in May, ranging in size from $1,000 to $250,000 and spanning all parts of the Commonwealth from Pittsfield to Truro.

According to the Mass. Cultural Council, the grant funds must be spent on fees paid to touring shows or artists, which can include:

  • Payments to the show/artist, including bonuses and percentages
  • Housing costs for the touring show/artist
  • Travel costs for the show/artist

The Mass. Cultural Council also used an additional $1 million in funding derived from gaming revenue to assist cultural organizations through its Safe Harbors Program. These funds provided 335 grants of $2,250, along with technical assistance, business education, and other resources to help struggling organizations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You can’t escape the environment that we’re in, and COVID has been devastating to our field as all of our organizations are closed,” said Walker. “They’ve been experiencing layoffs, they’ve had to cancel performances, they are in a very big hole financially because of COVID. This money was incredibly well appreciated, and as it turns out, it couldn’t have come at a more important time and emotional time for our organizations.”

“Hundreds of theaters, museums, choruses, dance troupes, orchestras, ballet companies, and countless other arts and culture organizations across our Commonwealth have the Mass. Cultural Council to thank for their recent lifelines,” said Griffin. “The Commission hopes that our licensees will look for opportunities to partner with these impacted organizations and find opportunities for gaming patrons to visit these venues for shows and performances.”

To see the full list of 52 organizations assisted by the Gaming Mitigation Program and the funds awarded to each, click here.

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