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Some Mass. Performing Arts Centers To Benefit From Casino Tax Revenue

In Massachusetts, performing arts centers like the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, and Tanglewood in Lenox are among the types of non-profit venues that could apply for "mitigation" funds through casino tax revenue.
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In Massachusetts, performing arts centers like the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, and Tanglewood in Lenox are among the types of non-profit venues that could apply for "mitigation" funds through casino tax revenue.

Some nonprofit arts venues in Massachusetts could get money from the state if they can demonstrate their bottom lines have been hurt by casino entertainment.

The money will annually funnel through the Mass Cultural Council, which will receive 2% of the state's casino tax revenue for the arts mitigation fund

Most of that revenue, about $3 million this year, will go to nonprofit performing arts centers whose core business — more than 50 percent of their budget — consists of touring shows, operas or concerts, according to Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker.

"A casino can basically give away tickets for free and pay top-dollar for a touring act, because it isn't really part of their balance sheet and their bottom line,” Walker said. “Our cultural organizations look very, very carefully at how much it costs to bring in an act and how much they charge for a ticket."

The Hanover Theatre in Worcester has reported several types of entertainment revenue losses since the MGM casino opened in Springfield.

It reported to the Mass Cultural Council that since MGM Springfield opened “Roar! Comedy Club” in January 2019, the Hanover booked 13 fewer artists than average, with an estimated impact of $319,631.

According to the theatre, Steve Martin & Martin Short, Family Feud Live and Aziz Ansari all declined to play the Hanover and instead appeared at MGM Springfield, with an estimated impact of $135,500.

The Hanover also reported that touring artists’ fees are increasing due to the casino presence in the market. In 2008 and 2010, the theatre said, Foreigner’s fee to perform was $40,000.  The fee for this same artist to play the Hanover in 2019 was $75,000.

Some venues, like Springfield’s Symphony Hall, don’t meet the grant program’s guidelines, as it is now managed by a MGM Springfield.

The Mass Cultural Council started accepting grant applicationsearlier this month.

Walker couldn't say what the maximum grant will be. The only sure bet is the fund size will fluctuate, based on how much money visitors gamble at the casinos.

Copyright 2020 New England Public Media

Jill has been reporting, producing features and commentaries, and hosting shows at NEPR since 2005. Before that she spent almost 10 years at WBUR in Boston, five of them producing PRI’s “The Connection” with Christopher Lydon. In the months leading up to the 2000 primary in New Hampshire, Jill hosted NHPR’s daily talk show, and subsequently hosted NPR’s All Things Considered during the South Carolina Primary weekend. Right before coming to NEPR, Jill was an editor at PRI's The World, working with station based reporters on the international stories in their own domestic backyards. Getting people to tell her their stories, she says, never gets old.

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