BOSTON — Anti-gambling activists, in a study released Wednesday, suggest local aid from state lottery profits will drop by as much as $103 million if and when casinos open in Massachusetts, but casino proponents argue the revenue drop is not likely to be that severe.
The Repeal the Casino Deal Campaign, which is behind this November’s ballot question to repeal the state’s casino law, estimates lottery profits will drop, overall, by $85 million to $103 million as casinos draw customers away from lottery games. All state lottery revenue — after administrative overhead costs — currently goes directly to local aid, resulting in about $945 million to be shared by Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns.
“Anyone who values local first responders, city services, clear roads and filled potholes can see in black and white just what this mess is going to bring to our Commonwealth,” said John Ribeiro, chairman of the casino repeal campaign.
But the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s trade group, dismissed the findings as “sky-is-falling scare tactics,” noting that other states that have allowed casinos saw lottery sales decrease some, but nowhere close to the percentage drop opponents predict.
The Committee to Protect Massachusetts Jobs, the casino-backed group that’s campaigning to defeat the repeal question, argues that casinos will see more net revenue for government services than the lottery currently provides.
“Casino gaming will generate some $400 million a year in new tax revenue for Massachusetts and the law ensures that a sizable share of gaming tax money is earmarked specifically for the benefit of cities and towns,” the group said in a statement. “That’s in addition to the tens of millions of dollars in annual payments that are to be made directly to communities hosting and surrounding particular gaming facilities.”
The state’s expanded gambling law of 2011 authorized up to three regional resort casinos and one slot parlor. So far, gambling regulators have awarded MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts casino licenses and Penn National Gaming the lone slot parlor license.
According to Repeal the Casino Deal’s study, Boston, the state’s largest city, stands to lose at least $15.4 million in local aid from lottery revenues when casinos open. Worcester, the second largest city, could lose at least $3.4 million. And Springfield, the third largest city, could lose at least $3 million.