(Boston, MA)—Last week the state Senate approved provisions to mitigate the impact of casinos on the nonprofit cultural sector as part of its bill to expand gambling in Massachusetts.
The Senate bill must now be reconciled with the House version through a conference committee that was established today. A final bill must then pass both chambers and then go to the Governor, who can sign or veto it before the legislative session ends July 31.
Please watch for an advisory from the Massachusetts Advocates for Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (MAASH) for instructions on how to advocate to ensure that the final legislation sent to the Governor has the most benefit for the nonprofit cultural sector.
The Senate gambling legislation would:
- Establish a cultural mitigation fund that could generate an estimated $6 million to $10 million annually, beginning in several years when casinos are officially licensed and operating. That represents 2% of the proposed tax on gross gaming revenues. Separate mitigation funds are designated for other purposes, including gambling addiction treatment and other community needs. The amount set aside for the cultural sector is roughly twice that proposed in the House bill.
- Establish a subcommittee on cultural facilities as part of a broader gaming advisory board that would recommend regulations to mitigate casinos’ impact on nonprofit performing arts centers.
- Ensure that performances in casino entertainment venues with more than 1,000 seats be reviewed and approved by that subcommittee, which would include representation from the MCC and the nonprofit performing arts community.
The MCC has worked closely with advocates from the Hanover Theatre in Worcester and other nonprofit performing arts centers to ensure that those centers are protected from unfair competition from casino entertainment. We also believe a portion of future revenues from casinos should support the broader, nonprofit cultural sector.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Stan Rosenberg of Amherst was among the chief architects of the bill, and was vocal in his support for arts and culture. The amendments supporting the arts were filed by Senator Harriette Chandler of Worcester and co-sponsored by Senators Stephen Brewer of Barre, Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, Michael Moore of Millbury, and Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster. Senators Steven Panagiotakos of Lowell and Karen Spilka of Framingham were also leading voices on behalf of the cultural sector.
The Senate also approved a separate amendment filed by Senator Jack Hart of Boston that would require the gaming industry to annually report to the Legislature on the effects of gambling on the Commonwealth’s tourism industry.
About the Massachusetts Cultural Council
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency supporting the arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and its communities. The MCC pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists. For more go to www.massculturalcouncil.org.