Local jurisdictions receive first impact grants from casino this year
WORCESTER COUNTY—The Casino at Ocean Downs generated $5,826,335 in gross terminal revenues from its 800 video lottery terminals in July, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Since the state requires that 5.5 percent of VLT proceeds are paid to communities in the local area that meant a payout of $320,448.42 in local impact grants to Worcester County its largest municipalities for the first month of the 2014 fiscal year, which began July 1.
By law, the county would have received 60 percent of the grant expenditures (approximately $192,269.05), Ocean City would have received 20 percent (approximately $64,089.68), and Berlin and Ocean Pines would have received 10 percent each (approximately $32,044.84), from the total $320,448 grant fund amount paid in July. The grant fund revenue must be spent on infrastructure improvement; facilities; public safety; sanitation; economic and community development, including housing; or other public services or improvements.
The local impact grant funds paid by Ocean Downs in June totaled $264,586.99. In May it totaled $262,557.26, according to the agency. The VLT grant fund payout for fiscal year 2013 was more than $1.6 million, it said.
In Worcester County the grant funds were used for school construction and a one-time purchase of a public safety vehicle. According to his report to the Local Development Council in 212, Phillip Thompson, the county’s assistant finance officer said “In the future it is anticipated that Casino/VLT funds will be used to retire debt on the recently constructed Worcester Technical High School,” which services the entire county.
Ocean City uses its casino grant funding to help fund street repair and replacement.
In 2012, Ocean City Budget Manager Jennie Knapp told the council the city estimated it would receive $450,000 in local impact grant funds for fiscal year 2013. The revenue would be dedicated to helping the city pay for another $2 million in street repair projects, she said.
In Berlin, according to Mayor Gee Williams, the grant revenues have reached the point where the town could opt to pay off its debt on a six-acre parcel of land purchased in 2010 on Route 113, between Bay Street and Tripoli streets across from Uncle Willie’s gas station.
The purpose of the land purchase was to provide a location for a future public safely facility, police station and/or community center, Williams said during an Aug. 26 interview.
In a 2012 letter to the Local Development Council, which administers the grants, Williams explained “Once the land purchase is paid off the Town plans to continue using the revenues collected to construct the new Community Center and Police Station.”
The anticipated annual payout was $200,000, Williams said in the interview, so officials were “very pleased” that Berlin actually received were closer to $215,000 during 2013, he said. “We haven’t decided what to do with it yet,” he said, adding that the Town council had a long list of requests from the public about what other specific functions the facility would serve. Officials will likely begin discussions on how to go forward with the new facility once new Town Administrator Laura Allen arrives in town and gets settled into her new job, he indicated.