Cumberland Times-News

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February 1, 2013

Fire and rescue leader anxious about the impact of Rocky Gap casino

CUMBERLAND — How the opening of the Rocky Gap casino will impact Allegany County’s already declining paper gaming revenues is a concern to volunteer fire and rescue companies.

The county’s paper gaming revenue helps fund volunteer fire departments.

“I’d like everyone to keep it in mind. It’s a big expense (to run a fire company),” said Clarence Broadwater, president of the Allegany-Garrett Counties Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association. “We would like you to have some plan in the back of your minds,” Broadwater said.

Allocations to fire departments dropped from a high of $147,605 in fiscal 2008 to $83,552 in fiscal 2011, which ended June 30, 2011. Those are the most recent figures available.

The casino is expected to open in May, offering slots and table games. Broadwater expressed concerns about whether residents will now take their gaming money to the casino, rather than the the county-regulated games offered in taverns, liquor stores and other venues.

“I’m behind Rocky Gap 100 percent,” Broadwater said.

Broadwater asked county commissioners if they had a plan for making sure the fire companies were financially supported if paper gaming revenues were affected.

“We will be working on something,” said Commissioner Bill Valentine, who added that he was sure county staff would look into the question.

Commission President Michael McKay said it wasn’t clear what the impact would be, “if there is an impact, we’ll work on that.”

“The proof is going to be in the pudding,” McKay said.

A recent report showed the decline in gaming revenue slowing slightly.

“The good news is, we came in above projections,” said Gerald Joy, the county’s gaming administrator.

The projection was that revenues for 2012 would be $421,000, or $54,000 less than in 2011. The actual revenues were $437,399, Joy said. That meant $223,793 for education and $74,598 for the 28 volunteer fire and rescue departments.

County revenue from the games was $425,295 in fiscal 2010 and $451,048 in fiscal 2009.

Allegany and Washington counties are the only two counties in the state that have legally regulated paper gaming.

The nonprofits are required to hand out most of their revenues to organizations like Little League, the Red Cross and scholarship funds.

Broadwater made his comments at Thursday’s Allegany County Commission meeting at the county office building on Kelly Road.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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