To date, casino money for local communities has centered on the lucrative host community agreements and surrounding community agreements, but a whole new pot of money is set to become available for the first time on Monday, Feb. 2, when grant applications for the state Community Mitigation Fund (CMF) are due.
It is the inaugural deadline for what is expected to be a very lucrative annual grant process open to many communities in the area and consisting of several multi-million dollar pots of money.
So far, Chelsea has been ahead of the curve, officials said, in making sure to get into the inaugural pipeline for what could be many years of “found money” being awarded to the City.
The new pot of money – one of several pots of money that will be fully available once the Wynn Everett casino and other casinos are up and running – comes via fees paid to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) through licensing fees and taxes. Per the state’s Expanded Gaming Law, large chunks of those fees are set aside for Community Mitigation, the state Cultural Council, the state Tourism Fund, Gaming Local Aid Fund, Capital Projects Fund, an Education Fund, a Transportation Infrastructure and Development Fund, and, of course, the Race Horse Development Fund – among four others.
Wynn Everett officials indicated that there would be millions of dollars going into the various funds listed above in their first full year of operation – money that is meant to go to communities to help fund projects and mitigate impacts through the use of state taxes and fees paid by casino operators.
During the first year of operation, Wynn will provide $201 million to the 12 separate funds, it said, including:
*$4.02 million to the Mass Cultural Council
*$30.15 million to the Transportation Infrastructure and Development Fund
*$28.14 million to the Education Fund
*$13.07 million to the CMF
*$40.2 million to the Gaming Local Aid Fund
*$5.03 million to the Race Horse Development Fund
*$2.01 million to the Mass Tourism Fund
*$9.05 million to the Local Capital Projects Fund
Of course, other casino and slot parlor operators would also be contributing monies to those funds as well.
“This CMT is only one of the pots of money available,” said Ron Hogan, a planning analyst for the City of Malden. “There’s a transportation mitigation fund and several others too that can be accessed as well by communities. You really, as a community, have to be out there quickly and be aware of all that’s available and getting at it if you want to get the maximum benefit…It’s the old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
The money is over and above any other surrounding community agreements or host community agreements that are in effect, and it is solely upon individual communities to apply for the grants.
That first deadline for the first pot of money – the Community Mitigation Fund (CMF) – comes on Monday, Feb. 2, and will continue each year per state law on the first business day of February. Already, millions of dollars have been deposited into the various state gaming tax funds, though the CMF will be limited this year. Reportedly, the first deposits to the fund from gaming license fees were around $17.5 million.
MGC officials said the CMF will be allocating $100,000 planning grants from the fund this year to communities that are host or surrounding communities – or even those that applied to be host or surrounding communities and were denied.
That limited amount of money comes due to the fact that there is really nothing to mitigate yet due to the fact that construction hasn’t started. Therefore, for the initial year of grants, the MGC decided to award planning grants to communities to study the potential factors they could face due to the construction and opening of a casino.
With so much money at stake, one would think that most every community is chomping at the bit to get a piece of the newfound revenues. However, it isn’t the case as some communities have jumped out in front to get in the pipeline, others have been slow to understand that the pots of money are available and others have been hesitant to participate in the process due to ongoing litigation.
The City of Boston would have likely qualified for the $100,000 planning grant from the CMT, something that could be put towards ongoing traffic and community planning efforts just underway in Charlestown.
However, the City would not confirm whether or not it had applied or would apply for the CMT due to the ongoing lawsuit filed just recently.
“The City of Boston is now engaged in litigation and therefore cannot comment on specifics related to the lawsuit,” read a statement from Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. “Mayor Walsh is taking this action to protect the City and the neighborhood of Charlestown.”
Meanwhile, in another community with a lawsuit against the MGC – Revere – it has applied for the CMT and hopes to use the potential $100,000 grant for traffic planning.
The Revere Mayor’s Office said they have been working with their planning consultant, Paul Rupp, to apply for the inaugural round of state gaming tax grants.
Revere is the only community surrounding Wynn Everett that would have no surrounding community agreement monies available to it. The community never engaged with Wynn Everett to negotiate such an agreement due to legal restrictions in its host community agreement with Mohegan Sun.
“We did put an application in a week ago,” said Mayoral Assistant Miles Lang-Kennedy. “We’re looking to potentially use it for planning efforts for Rt. 16 and Rt. 1. It’s all very new this year, but as they go forward, we expect there will be more guidelines.”
Chelsea City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson said her City has been on the forefront of looking to get involved with the numerous funds available from the MGC, including the CMT. Getting in the pipeline is very important to the City, she said, and they have appointed Planner John DePriest to be a representative on the CMT Committee.
“This year it’s a little different because there is no construction or casino to mitigate,” Watson said. “We are definitely on board with this. We’re putting in for the maximum grant this year. We have a lot of traffic concerns to mitigate. We want to get ahead of the gaming addiction and education issues. We’re also interested in looking at jobs and, of course, public safety is very important in this too…We’ve already looked preliminarily at some intersections. We’ve done our homework. We’re ahead of the curve on this I think.”
Hogan, of Malden, has also been appointed to the CMT Committee by his community.
“We already have our application in and already have had conversations with the Commission about what activities would be ok for use of the mitigation fund,” he said. “Communities are going to have to be on top of this in years to come so they can figure out how to use it effectively. This year it’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s money that’s just on the table.”