Shaking the Gaming Money Tree

Shaking the Gaming Money Tree

Residents and taxpayers in Allegheny County might be surprised to find that some of the sidewalks upon which they traverse were made possible by people playing slot machines. So too with some bridges, parks, buildings, and other physical structures as well as planning, marketing, and loan initiatives.

One of the eight distributions of slots money Allegheny County received under Act 53 of 2007-the law that divvied up the share of economic development projects funded by gaming-was $80 million for a "…community infrastructure fund of a county of the second class to fund construction, development, improvement, and maintenance of infrastructure projects". The law further stipulated that the County would get ten annual disbursements of $6.6 million through 2018. Thus far $13.2 million has been received by the County and handed over to be administered by the Redevelopment Authority. Some $9.2 million has been distributed through September 2010.

Under the most recent program guidelines for the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund (CITF, and the tourism aspect was added by the County’s Redevelopment Authority after Act 53 was passed), the money can fund acquisition of land and buildings; for costs related to storm water, sanitary sewer, water supply, and transportation projects; demolition; environmental projects; planning,; streetscape; and other site preparation costs at the discretion of the Authority. The money cannot be used as bridge financing, for operating expenses, to refinance debt, or municipal vehicles or structures.

Municipalities, authorities, councils of government, and non-profits can obtain a grant or a loan; for-profit businesses are eligible for loans only; the maximum amount for a single project or application (whether a grant or loan) is $250,000.

It is too early to assess the benefits of many distributions from the fund: the guidelines do say that awards are evaluated on job creation and retention over a three year period, the amount of funding per full time job, the amount of matching funds, etc. Much of that will come by way of a close-out audit when funds are drawn down.

Two follow up entries on the blog will detail the money that has been handed out through September of 2010 and the policy framework going forward.