BERLIN — While attendance has fluctuated at the Casino at Ocean Downs, the slots parlor is already emerging as a leisure destination for locals and, at the very least, a curiosity-satisfying stop for visitors. As the winter turns to spring then summer state lottery officials will be able to get a better estimate of the approximate revenues the Casino at Ocean Downs will generate and the local impact fees will be better able to be scheduled.
As it stands now, the State Lottery Commission will begin reporting on the area totals in the next few weeks. Each of the area recipients will receive funds transfers but the expenditure of those funds will be dependent on the recommendation of the Local Development Council.
What precisely will happen to the funds the county will likely be receiving for distribution in the coming weeks is still a little murky but not something of concern, according to Gee Williams.
Williams sits on the Committee of Resident Representatives of the Local Development Council for the Ocean City Video Lottery Facility and said he’s confident the council members will be able to deal with the funds dispersement by the time the county, municipalities and Ocean Pines are ready to use the funds.
The Local Development Council, in addition to seven resident representatives, will include the state senator and delegates, a representative of Ocean Downs and four representatives of the business community.
The committee of resident representatives is Todd Ferrante of Ocean City, Rodney Murray of Ocean Pines, Michael Pruitt of Snow Hill, Dianna Purnell of Berlin, James Rosenberg of Ocean Pines, Ronald Taylor of Pocomoke City and Gee Williams of Berlin.
Business and institutional representatives are Cam Bunting, broker at Bunting Realty, David Massey, Ocean Pines Police chief, Rick Meehan, mayor of Ocean City, and Mark Wittmyer, owner of Raceway Citgo and Crabs-to-Go.
J. Michael Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, a branch of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said he expected to begin working with the county, municipalities and Ocean Pines administrations to help them prepare for how the funds ought to be accounted for. While Hopkins’ department is responsible for the distribution of the local impact funds, the Local Development Council is responsible for the expenditures.
It is unlikely, however, the LDC will be a suffocating bureaucracy constantly at odds with the funding recipients’ wishes. According to Williams and Worcester County Commission President Bud Church, the administration of the funds will be a cooperative effort between the parties doing the spending and the LDC.
While the funds are, on the face of it, pretty tightly restricted, the definitions of those restrictions are a little bit looser restricted to infrastructure, facility improvements, public safety, sanitation, economic and business development, and other impacts.
Both Church and Williams were confident that the LDC and each of the recipients would work closely together to ensure there was a plan to spend the funding within the parameters without issue.
Williams, who is Berlin’s mayor as well as a member of the LDC, pointed out that Berlin has already earmarked the lottery funding to support the purchase of land for and the construction of a new police station and community center on the east side of Route 113.
Because odds play a part, the law requires that at least 87 percent of every dollar spent at state slots facilities be paid out in prize money with the remainder divided between several different layers of recipients.
48.5 percent to education
33 percent to the casino
7 percent to increase the purses
2.5 percent to the racetrack facility for capital improvements
2 percent to the Maryland Lottery
1.5 percent to small, minority and women owned businesses
5.5 percent to the local impact fund
The local impact fund is divided even further with 60 percent going to Worcester County, 20 percent to Ocean City and 10 percent each to Berlin and Ocean Pines.