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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


OPA will not see drop in casino impact funds

Commissioners to evaluate table games for six months, but slot share likely secure

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(April 5, 2018) A minor stir, by Ocean Pines standards, occurred last Thursday when Association Vice President Cheryl Jacobs apparently misspoke about the potential for a reduction of casino impact funds received by the community.

The board, during its regular meeting, unanimously approved a motion to transfer previously deposited casino impact funds from replacement reserves to road maintenance reserves.

During the discussion Jacobs said she recently read a newspaper article suggesting county officials were “taking a different look at how these funds get dispersed.”

“The county is going to delay making a decision, according to this article, on how that money is going to be dispersed going forward, because they believe that the Snow Hill and Pocomoke communities who don’t currently receive any of that money are impacted in other ways by the casino,” she said. “Therefore, our percentage may be changed.

“I don’t think we can necessarily count on continuing to get the same amount of money,” Jacobs continued. “Their decision on this is going to be deferred for a while. I just would ask that we keep that in mind.”

Jacobs added Ocean Pines already lost highway user revenues from the state, which previously helped pay for road repairs.

“Now, we count on money from the casino and some of what we were counting on getting as a percentage may change going forward, so we need to be cognizant of that,” she said.

Reached for comment on Monday, Jacobs said she was mistaken.

“At the conclusion of the meeting, [resident] Joe Reynolds came up to me and gave me information indicating that part of what I said was incorrect,” she said. “I was reporting what I believed that I had read in the paper. I never said the county was taking away our money — I said there was a possibility that the 10 percent that we got could be changed. I was wrong about that and I stand corrected. And I appreciate Joe giving me the history after the meeting.”

By law, 5.5 percent of gross terminal revenues from the Ocean Downs Casino are redistributed through local impact grants. Of that funding, Worcester County keeps 60 percent, Ocean City gets 20 percent, and both Berlin and the Ocean Pines Association get 10 percent.

However, that does not take into account recently installed table games and the county commissioners, last month, discussed sending a portion of that funding to Snow Hill and Pocomoke City.

The county commissioners, on March 20, agreed to a six-month evaluation period before making any decision.

Reached for comment on Monday, Commissioner Chip Bertino, who represents Ocean Pines, said it was too soon to tell how the additional money from table games would be spent.

“At this point, the commissioners are taking a wait-and-see approach,” Bertino said. “We don’t know how much we’re really talking about. We only had one or two months’ worth of data and we decided to hold off before making any decisions.”

For now, Bertino said he was not leaning either way.

“I really want to see what we’re talking about,” he said. “I really don’t have a feeling one way or the other.”