Casino revenue up from last year

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OXFORD — The town of Oxford has received $1.7 million  in revenues from the tables games and slot operations at the Oxford Casino during 2017. The amount is $115,852 more than the town received in 2016.

According to numbers released recently by the Maine Gambling Control Board, the town’s 2 percent of the net slot and table game revenues for 2017 show a return of  $1,374,455.95 in slot operations and $351,282.87 in table games for a total of $1,725,738 to Oxford as the Casino’s host municipality.

During the previous year, the town of Oxford received $1,297,129 in slot revenues and $312,757 in table revenues or a combined $1,609,886. Oxford County received $648,564 in slot revenues and $156,378 in table revenues or a combined $804,942.

Local officials say they continue to rely on the Casino money for the financial success of the town of Oxford including as a way to reduce the tax burden on property owners.

This past year, the Casino money has provided a boost in a number of areas, said Town Manager Butch Asselin.

“The revenues from the Oxford Casino are not designated for any specific purpose,” he said. ” As a result, any funds received are used to pay for service provided to the community such as police, fire, town office, transfer station, debt and tax relief.”

Asselin said officials anticipated revenues from the casino for this fiscal year would be about $1.6 million.

County gains

The Oxford Casino also provided funds to Oxford County during 2017 as the host county.

During 2017, Oxford County received a combined $862,869, or 1 percent as the host county, from the table game and slot operations at the Oxford Casino. Specifically, the County received 687,227.98 in slot games and 175,641.42 in table game operations.

The amount is an increase of about $58,000 over Casino funds received in 2016.

The county has traditionally used the majority of its money for tax relief and some for vehicle replacement.

Last year, Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole said the county drew $50,000 each month for tax relief from Casino revenues it received.

Combined, both the County and town received $2,588,608 in revenue returns from the Oxford Casino – an increase of more just over $1 million from 2016 net revenues to both entities of $2,414,828.

Allocations

The town and county’s respective 2 and 1 percent annual net slot and table  game revenue return from the Oxford Casino is based on a “cascade of revenues” formula established by the referendum that set up the Oxford Casino in 2010.

According to that referendum that voters approved to allow the expansion of gambling in Maine, 46 percent of net slot machine income and 16 percent of net table game income goes to the state through the Maine Gambling Control Board. Those board members then return a pre-determined percentage of table game and slot operations to a variety of entities such as the town, county, Department of Education, agricultural fairs, etc. The Bangor Casino has a similar setup.

In addition to the money earmarked to the host town and county, specifically a total of 25 percent of the slot machine revenues and 10 percent of the table games from the Oxford Casino goes to the Department of Education for kindergarten through grade 12 public schools. Other slot machine revenue is divvied up, including 1 percent for agricultural fairs, 3 percent for Maine Community College scholarships, 4 percent to the tribal governments of the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes, and so forth as the revenue “cascades” across agencies and others designated to receive funds through the legislation.

Hollywood Slots in Bangor – the only other casino currently operating in the state – has a similar “cascade of revenue” distribution system but it is set up differently. In this case the host municipality receives only 1 percent of the net revenues for slots and 2 percent of the revenues from table games. The host county, Penobscot County, gets nothing.

There are no restrictions on how the host community – Oxford – may spend the money.

Money tracking

Last year, Finance Clerk Becky Lippincott, who was then serving as interim town manager, explained that all the casino revenues – except those used to lower the tax rate each year – are put in the town’s General Fund. The General Fund is the town’s primary operating fund for general government purposes – typically accounting for expenses and revenues that result from providing services and producing and delivering goods.

The exception are those monies required to be accounted for in another fund, such as the Wastewater Fund, which is accounts for the operation of the wastewater treatment plant.

The majority of the Casino money – which remains one of the town’s biggest source of revenue, along with other sources such as property taxes – is used to lower the tax rate.

Lippincott told the Advertiser Democrat last year, that in June, annual town meeting voters decide how much money they want to spend on what but they don’t decide what fund the money is going to be taken from.

Instead, selectmen determine sometime in August how much of the Casino money they will use to keep the tax rate low and then they authorize the draw down of the money at that time.

As an example, Lippincott said in fiscal 2016 (July 1 2015 to June 30, 2016,) the town received $1,604,466 in Casino revenue. Of that amount $975,000 was used to lower the tax rate. The remaining $629,466 was rolled into the General Fund’s Undesignated Fund Balance. The Fund Balance is then broken into five classifications based on restrictions placed on how the money can be spent or whether there is no restriction on the money.

Reducing property taxes and supplementing capital projects and expenses are all contingent on receiving the Casino money, officials have said.

According to the latest revenue figures released by the Maine Gambling Control Board, for the first half of January, 2018, (up to Jan. 16) the town has received $13,677.96 in table game activities and $50,795.05 in slot game revenues.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net