Cumberland Times-News

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July 19, 2013

Rocky Gap paper gaming impact uncertain

CUMBERLAND — It’s too early to tell whether the opening of the casino at Rocky Gap will impact the many clubs, taverns and liquor stores in the area that offer paper games, said Gerald Joy, Allegany County’s gaming administrator.

Butch Corley, the president of the Goodfellowship Club, agrees.

“Summer is a slow time; when winter comes we’ll have a better idea,” Corley said. That’s when club members will be indoors and home from vacation, playing pool and other indoor activities.

While Corley thinks there may be a small drop-off in play for the paper games lately because of Rocky Gap, he doesn’t expect it to last.

“It will wear off once the novelty is gone,” Corley said.

Besides the clubs, taverns and liquor stores, local volunteer fire and rescue departments have been concerned, since fire departments and the school system are major beneficiaries of the tax money coming into the county from paper gaming.

Earlier this year, Clarence Broadwater, now vice president of the Allegany-Garrett Counties Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, asked the county commissioners to develop a plan to help if Rocky Gap hits paper gaming revenues hard.

Broadwater said Thursday the impact won’t be clear for a while, but that commissioners have promised to make up for any significant decline in revenues.

“It’s going to take about a year to see if it’s going to affect paper gaming at the bars and clubs,” Broadwater said. “The commissioners said they’ll look at other funding avenues, they’ve guaranteed that.”

“It’s getting so hard for the fire companies to raise funds,” he said, with expenses to keep a department in operation growing much higher over the years.

“I’m all for Rocky Gap,” Broadwater said, reiterating the same message he gave to commissioners earlier this year.

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.

Joy said many factors are at work in both the long-term decline in gaming revenues and the possible impact of Rocky Gap.

On the positive side for paper gaming, Joy said players tend to be loyalists to the places where they play, whether that be a bar, liquor store or club.

However, not as many younger people tend to socialize at the clubs, partially accounting for a slow fall in paper game revenues.

The condition of the local economy also makes it difficult to assess the early impact of Rocky Gap, Joy said, adding that trying to assess the impact of the casino is “premature” and that no hard numbers are available yet.

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

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.

Rocky Gap Casino Resort reported earnings on $2.5 million in its first full month of operation, according to June revenue figures released Friday by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. Rocky Gap Casino Resort is operated by Lakes Entertainment based in Minnesota.

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

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