The casinos are coming: What should communities expect?


Last week, the Governor signed Chapter 194 of the Acts of 2011 that will bring up to three resort casinos and one slot machine facility to Massachusetts.

Without taking a pro or con side on the issue of casinos in Massachusetts, MAPC has been actively involved in the debate over the course of several legislative sessions. Under the law, there will almost definitely be a casino and/or slot parlor in the MAPC region, and we want to make sure that the needs of the host and surrounding communities are supported.

We’ve recommended several provisions to protect communities affected by gaming facilities, and much of that language ended up in the law.

Here are the highlights:

Establish a community mitigation fund

A community mitigation fund, financed through licensing fees and casino revenues, will provide funds designed to alleviate pressures and impacts on area transportation, environmental issues, water infrastructure, municipal services, housing, education and social programs. Mirroring what we requested, the fund’s flexibility will allow for ongoing evaluation of the casinos’ impact on local communities.

Take a regional approach

The introduction of gaming facilities in Massachusetts will not only affect the cities and towns where they are built, but also the surrounding areas.

MAPC asked that mitigation funds be provided regionally. The newly-created Gaming Commission will have wide authority to determine which communities fall into the “surrounding” area designation, taking likely impacts into consideration, such as population, infrastructure, existing transportation access, and distance from the gaming establishment.

License applicants will be required to secure formal agreements on impact fees with host and surrounding communities before moving forward in the application process and the Gaming Commission is required to consider impacts on host and surrounding communities while evaluating license applications.

Give communities representation

We asked that the hosting and surrounding communities be given a seat on any committees that influence the distribution of mitigation funds and provide input to the gaming commission on mitigation issues in general.

The law establishes both a statewide subcommittee that includes one member from each host community and a Community Mitigation Advisory Committee in each of the three casino regions, which includes one member from each host and surrounding community as well as members appointed by the local regional planning agency (such as MAPC.)

Check back with Planning 101 for new developments related to casinos in Massachusetts. We will continue to monitor important issues and keep you updated.

Charlie Ticotsky, MAPC’s Government Affairs Coordinator