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$3.34M Awarded in First Round of Gaming Mitigation Grants 

Bethann Steiner, Communications Director

52 Performing Arts Centers Receive Funds to Help Compete with Casinos, Attract Touring Artists

Sutton Foster sings in a performance presented by Celebrity Series.
Sutton Foster sings in a performance presented by Celebrity Series.

Mass Cultural Council has announced recipients of the first round of Gaming Mitigation grants. In total, 52 nonprofit and municipally-owned performing arts centers across Massachusetts will receive $3.34M to help mitigate the challenges they face when directly competing with resort casinos to book touring artists.

“When the Legislature considered the operation of resort-style casinos in Massachusetts almost a decade ago many were concerned with unintended consequences. While the influx of new gaming revenues into state coffers and the creation of new jobs was anticipated and welcome, many predicted performing arts centers would lose access to acts once they began competing with casinos to attract and book nationally-touring artists. This program was envisioned by the Legislature to protect and preserve the ability of those venues to compete,” said Anita Walker, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “Mass Cultural Council is proud to administer this program, fulfilling the Legislature’s vision by making these mitigation funds available to nonprofit and municipally-owned performing arts centers.”

See the 2020 Gaming Mitigation Grant Program funding list.

Meeting a Clear Legislative Mandate

Mass Cultural Council was directed to administer the Gaming Mitigation Program by the Legislature in the Expanded Gaming Act of 2011. As outlined in statute, the Agency receives 2% of gaming revenues, three-quarters of which are mandated by law to be used for this grant program.

While the program was first envisioned nine years ago, the Agency is now managing the first award round in 2020 because casinos did not begin operating in Massachusetts until 2018, and a technical correction to the statute was necessary for Mass Cultural Council to receive the gaming revenues.

That concern was addressed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker in December 2019 when the Massachusetts Cultural and Performing Arts Trust Fund was established, creating a vehicle for Mass Cultural Council to receive gaming revenues and administer the program as originally envisioned by policymakers.

The Gaming Mitigation Program aims to mitigate a direct threat to the sustainability of nonprofit and municipal performing arts centers in Massachusetts by providing capital to preserve their ability to compete with casinos in a new, unbalanced marketplace. This is important because performing arts centers:

  • Are economic engines for communities
  • Ensure access to the arts across the Commonwealth
  • Are centers of community gathering and place making
  • Provide young people creative learning opportunities

Gaming Mitigation grants are awarded using a formula that considers two factors, with equal weight: percent of performances impacted, and the total fees paid to touring shows and artists. The formula allocates higher awards to performing arts centers with a higher percent of impacted performances who spend more money on touring shows or artists, because organizations with business models that rely heavily on these types of shows and artists are the most heavily impacted by competition with casinos.

Caps and minimum grant amounts were set based on the amount of funding available, the number of applicants to the pool, and the need to target funding to those most directly impacted by the operation of resort-style casinos. In this round awards were capped at $250,000, and the minimum grant was $1,000.

Gaming Mitigation grant funds must be spent on fees paid to touring shows or artists, which can include:

  • Payments to the show/artist, including bonuses and percentages
  • Housing costs for the touring show/artist
  • Travel costs for the show/artist

While performing arts centers are now closed due to COVID-19 precautions, this funding will help recipients attract and pay touring artists when it is deemed safe to reopen.

“Massachusetts’ cultural sector has been financially devastated by COVID-19 related cancellations and closures,” said Walker. “Investing these gaming revenues into our nonprofit and municipally owned performing arts centers brings welcome and necessary relief and will help attract touring acts as they prepare to safely reopen and reengage with their audiences in the coming weeks and months.”

See the Funding List

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