Four years ago I wrote about a coalition of performing arts organizations in upstate NY that was fighting to mitigate the impact of having new casino projects compete with them for performing arts talent.
As I had written, what often happens is that a casino is in a position of offer a lot more money to artists thanks to their revenues from gambling and hospitality. So an artist you could contract for $25,000 for a single performance can now get $40,000 a night for a week at a nearby casino.
Even if the artist might be willing to accept a lower fee at your venue, exclusivity clauses in their contract may prohibit them from performing in a 50-75 miles radius 90 days prior and 60 days after their casino engagement.
When I wrote that post four years ago, a commenter asked that I keep up on the efforts of the performing arts organizations, Coalition for Fair Game and update readers. I have been thinking I needed to circle back to the story and write another post.
The topic got brought to the top of my attention today at a meeting of Georgia performing arts presenters where a group that has been lobbying legislators on this issue gave a report on their efforts.
One of the things I did not realize is that many states are requiring that casinos earn a certain portion of their income from non-gambling sources like entertainment and hospitality. To some degree then, casinos are being forced to move into competition with non-profit performing arts organizations.
The guy reporting on the lobbying efforts said until they started talking with lawmakers about the repercussions of this requirement, it never occurred to the government officials that these requirements would have a negative impact on arts organizations locally and statewide.
So if your state is starting to look to legalize gambling or increase the presence of large casino complexes, it may behoove you to start conversations with lawmakers about the implications of these decisions.
As the discussion of the problem and lobbying efforts was occurring, I did a quick online search to learn more about what might have happened in upstate NY over the last few years. It just so happens, a newspaper wrote a pretty detailed story on the subject last month.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Coalition for Fair Game has received $500,000/year to help offset the impact of the casinos’ entertainment operations.
“If there wasn’t an agreement and this ongoing, open dialogue, we’d be constantly broadsided,” said Silva, who runs the Bardavon, presents shows at UPAC and Hutton Brickyards in Kingston and is currently president of the theater coalition. “We could be negotiating in good faith for an act and make an offer and get bumped because the casino gave $10,000 more.”
The money is designed to offset any negative economic impact that the casino’s headlining entertainment could have on the Bardavon and Bethel Woods. Resorts World Catskills allocates the funding to the theater coalition, which emerged in 2013 and includes venues from Albany to Elmira.
Similar deals are in place elsewhere in the state and can be found in Massachusetts.
In addition to the cash, this deal gives the Bardavon and Bethel Woods a say in the size, scope and number of entertainment offerings at Resorts World Catskills. The agreement and the casino licenses last 10 years and the payment from the casinos to the coalition is not affected by any fluctuations in gambling revenue.
Armed with the knowledge that the arrangement in upstate NY was working, I asked the speakers if they were aware of this arrangement and if they contemplated creating a similar situation if legislation went forward to authorize construction of proposed casinos.
They were aware of the arrangement in NY, but said while it was by far the best arrangement of its kind in the country, it is still an imperfect situation and that they would endeavor to carve out a better environment for the state.
Seems like something to continue to keep an eye on.