December 10, 2018

State budget deliberations begin without look at gambling revenue

MGM opened the state's first full-service casino in Springfield this summer.

State budget writers got estimates on all kinds of expected state revenue when they sat down Wednesday to begin their preparations for drafting the fiscal 2020 spending plan, but one category was conspicuously absent.

Sen. Joan Lovely, who has been leading the Senate Ways and Means Committee, first asked how much the state could expect from casino gaming revenue after Revenue Commissioner Christopher Harding's testimony, which featured estimates for income tax revenue, corporate tax revenue, marijuana tax revenue, meals tax revenue and more.

"We have not looked at the gaming side of things," Harding told Lovely. "That falls under the treasurer and under the Gaming Commission itself."

Then, after Treasurer Deborah Goldberg presented testimony that included projections for Lottery revenue, Lovely again inquired about revenue from the state's slots parlor, one open casino and the casino expected to open in time for fiscal 2020. Goldberg said her office doesn't estimate gaming revenue and suggested Lovely ask the Gaming Commission.

The Gaming Commission was not part of Wednesday's consensus revenue hearing but told the News Service that it does not have state tax revenue projections for fiscal 2019 or fiscal 2020. The commission suggested asking the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

As it turns out, the person with the answer to Lovely's repeated question was sitting right next to her throughout the entire hearing Wednesday: A&F Secretary Michael Heffernan.

Heffernan's secretariat — which includes Harding's Department of Revenue — said Thursday that it does compile gaming revenue estimates, using data provided by the Gaming Commission. The fiscal 2019 budget assumes approximately $138 million in gaming revenue — $60 million from MGM Springfield and $78 million from the slots parlor at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville.

The administration is currently developing gaming revenue estimates for fiscal 2020, when Wynn Resorts' Encore Boston Harbor resort casino could open in Everett, but A&F said those estimates are not yet available to the public.


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