The Maryland Live! Casino Local Development Council (LDC), the state-mandated body that allocates Anne Arundel County’s share of casino video lottery terminal funds, is in the process of budgeting for fiscal 2017. By law, these funds must be spent predominantly in the three-mile radius around the casino, as they are intended to ameliorate impacts associated with its presence.
The members of the LDC had a nice surprise in January courtesy of County Budget Officer John Hammond: Despite the opening of Horseshoe Casino, in Baltimore, Maryland Live! Casino has continued to grow its revenues. As a result, the county share of revenues is on track to be $2 million higher than projected for fiscal 2016, for a total of $18 million.
What’s more, the state law authorizing the Prince George’s casino required that it match the revenue stream generated by the other casinos in the year before Prince George’s casino opens — so that extra $2 million is guaranteed going forward to Anne Arundel County.
The additional funds are allowing the LDC to focus spending on some key projects, including the successor to the People’s Community Health Center, a Severn health center to be operated by Total Health Care. While $1.7 million in LDC funds had been held for a successor project, the loss of federal Health Resources & Services Administration funds following People’s bankruptcy means additional county funds will need to be provided — and the LDC is now in a much better position to support that infusion.
Other priority projects include extending sidewalks and bicycle trails throughout the area, construction of a bus shelter that can accommodate multiple buses at Arundel Mills and possible acceleration of construction of Mathewstown-Harmans Park.
The increase in fiscal 2016 revenues allowed the LDC to fund lighting of two basketball courts and adjacent parking lots in Meade Village this spring. This supports the police department’s efforts to engage area youth through police-community basketball games, thereby building stronger relationships between the two.
LDC members are frequently questioned about the fact that casino funds were supposed to go to education. In fact, state law split the revenues into a series of funds, with the Education Trust Fund being the largest. From Maryland Live! alone, this fiscal year (seven months), the Education Trust Fund already has received more than $130 million, with an additional $19 million supporting horse racing and $3.5 million funding loans for small, minority and woman-owned businesses (in Anne Arundel County, through AAEDC’s VOLT Fund). The remaining funds come to the county to address local impacts as outlined above: $13 million has been collected through the end of January.
As has been the case since the beginning, the LDC’s highest priorities for fiscal 2017 are funding for public safety, including enhanced policing around Arundel Mills and additional fire equipment to support the growing community around the casino. A variety of transportation improvements, from road resurfacing to sidewalk enhancements to employee shuttles, are the next highest priority. Education and workforce investments, area beautification and community grants (increased in 2017 by $50,000 to $300,000) make up the remainder of the funds.
The LDC meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Harmans Community Center at Arundel Mills Mall. Meetings are open to the public.