BERLIN — Revenue received from the slots at Ocean Downs Casino is more than 10 percent over what was projected in the budget this year, according to Berlin officials.
If the pattern holds, Mayor Gee Williams explained that the town may reach its goal of purchasing land for a new police station or community center earlier than expected or it could channel the excess funds into other projects.
“It’s nice to have that discussion,” he said.
Williams revealed during a meeting of the Mayor and Council Monday that the figures from the first year of the casino’s operation were in and that Berlin has received a total of $222,921.42, and the town originally projected $200,000 as the town’s cut of the revenue.
“I think we were reasonably accurate but conservative,” Williams said of the $200,000 figure.
Worcester County receives 5 and a half percent of the casino’s monthly slots revenue. Of that amount, 10 percent each goes to Berlin, Ocean City and Ocean Pines, with the remaining 70 percent dropping into county coffers. With its share, Berlin plans on paying for a 6 ½-acre parcel of land on Bay Street over the next few years.
“The main goal is to purchase the land,” said Williams.
Once it is paid for, the two leading candidates for what to place on the land are a new police station or a community center.
“Those are things the council has wanted for years … you’ve just got to have somewhere to build them first,” Williams said.
With money from slots flowing in faster than anticipated, Williams said that it is possible the town will have the property paid off before the original 2015 date.
“If the revenue goes ahead of projections, it could be sooner,” he said.
Williams also mentioned the possibility of directing some of the excess money toward side projects, such as tourism promotions aimed specifically at visitors who would use the casino, sidewalk improvements, and several others. Nothing is set in stone, however, stressed Williams.
“Let’s wait and see,” he said.
Williams admitted that, while Berlin’s cup may be running over right now, the nature of casinos makes it difficult to plot solid revenue numbers for the future. But he is confident that if numbers do change they will most likely go up due to Ocean Downs becoming better known and expanding, as well as a hopeful nationwide economic recovery in the years ahead.