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February 14, 2020

Hanover Theatre losing acts & revenue due to Mass. casinos, costing $555K

Photo/Caitlin Reidy Troy Siebels, Hanover Theatre president and CEO, stands in front of the main entrance to his facility.

The Hanover Theatre in Worcester is feeling the pain from the new casinos in Massachusetts, having recently reported the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrealized income from acts drawn off by casinos or had to be paid more in an increasingly competitive market.

According to Hanover Theatre President and CEO Troy Siebels, the impact of casinos can be difficult to measure. But because casinos can pay much more for performers and have a broader performance black-out radius, it becomes a supply problem with fewer performers being available, he said. He equates it to a new bakery opening up in the neighborhood and flour becoming scarce as a result.

“It’s not like we are competing for customers… We’ve tried to measure our impact, and it’s almost impossible,” said Siebels. “We try to measure the impact by looking at shows that would have come to Worcester but for the casinos.”

As part of a new state program with the Massachusetts Cultural Council designed to provide grants to nonprofit cultural venues who have been impacted by the casinos, the Hanover Theatre reported estimated impacts from the casinos:

  • $319,631 - Since MGM Springfield opened its comedy club in January 2019, Hanover has booked 13 fewer artists than average.
  • $135,500 - In 2019 Steve Martin & Martin Short, Family Feud Live and Aziz Ansari all declined to play the Hanover Theatre and instead appeared solely at MGM Springfield. 
  • $65,279 - Performers such as The Fab Four, Rodney Carrington, Jim Brickman and Boys II Men – all with prior Worcester relationships – opted to play MGM Springfield in 2018 and 2019, rather than return to Worcester.
  • $35,000 - Touring artists fees are increasing due to casino presence in the market. In 2008 and 2010 Foreigner’s fee to perform at The Hanover Theatre was $40,000. That increased to $75,000 to play The Hanover in 2019.

These losses were anticipated before the casinos opened, said Siebels, with the Hanover working with legislators to try and build in protections for existing cultural venues. The solution was to allocate approximately 1.5% of casino tax revenues to a fund to reimburse not-for-profit or municipally owned arts centers through a competitive grant process.

This is one of the reasons why the Hanover Theatre has tabulated the estimated lost revenue. While the Hanover Theatre lobbied for protections instead of remunerations, Siebels said he is grateful for the legislation and support it brings to performing arts centers.

“It is not a silver bullet, and it does not necessarily solve every problem,” he said. “But we are grateful.”

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February 14, 2020

Frankly, I would much rather go to the Hanover Theatre than one of the casinos. I think that the acts are short sighted! I have enjoyed many concerts and other events at Hanover.

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