Local arts centers get $3.7 million boost from gaming revenue

More than $3.7 million in state gaming tax revenue is flowing to 43 nonprofit and municipal performing arts centers, allowing them to compete with the state's casinos when booking touring artists and performances, the Mass Cultural Council announced Tuesday.

The state's 2011 expanded gaming law dedicated 2% of state tax revenue from its resort-style casinos to the cultural council for a competitive grant program to help entertainment venues subsidize the fees paid to touring shows and artists. For FY2023, the Gaming Mitigation program awards totaled $3,737,400.

"The Gaming Mitigation program was established in the same act that authorized expanded gaming in Massachusetts, because policymakers understood that smaller performing arts organizations would soon be competing with the deep pockets of resort-style casinos to book touring artists and shows," Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Michael Bobbitt said. "Mass Cultural Council is pleased to administer this program as envisioned by the Legislature to try to equal the playing field and keep world-class entertainment accessible across the commonwealth."

The largest grants, at $250,000 each, went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset.

Other venues getting the state-revenue grants include the Cabot Performing Arts Center in Beverly ($225,000), Hanover Theatre in Worcester ($225,000), ArtsEmerson in Boston ($165,000), Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River ($107,700), Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket ($74,400), and the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival in Eastham ($9,000).

Grant amounts are based on a formula that accounts for the percentage of performances hosted and the amount of fees paid by the venue, the cultural council said.

Mindful that casino companies often use big-name entertainment acts to lure customers to their hotels and gaming floors, state lawmakers required a series of gaming mitigation measures for local theaters and performance venues.

Last year, the law's prohibition on casino companies building entertainment venues with seating for between 1,000 and 3,500 people got some attention when local venues alleged that Encore Boston Harbor had been violating it. Gaming Commission officials said the Everett casino had not run afoul of the law, but the casino did scale back its planned entertainment venue from about 1,800 seats to 999 seats to comply with the law.



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