Casino revenue helping offset funding shortfallsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
With city and county budgets statewide affected by slashed and dried up revenue sources, local government officials say they are thankful for the quarterly infusion of casino tax revenue, while noting the amount is rarely enough to fully offset funding gaps.
Gamblers wagered a total of $349.8 million at Ohio’s two casinos in August: $168.2 million at Hollywood Casino Toledo and $181.6 million at Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, according to a monthly report released Sept. 7 by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. After payouts, the casinos had a total adjusted gross revenue of $40.3 million for the month.
The state collects a 33 percent tax on that revenue. Fifty-one percent is distributed quarterly among Ohio’s 88 counties based on population. Counties whose largest city has a population of 80,000 or more split their share with that city. Those cities are Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. Thirty-four percent is distributed among all public school districts, 5 percent among all host cities, 3 percent to Ohio Casino Control Commission, 3 percent to the Ohio State Racing Commission fund, 2 percent to a state law enforcement training fund and 2 percent to a state problem gambling and addictions fund.
The first quarterly distribution to cities and counties was July 31; the next distribution will be Oct. 31. The first biannual school district distribution is set for Jan. 31, to be followed by the second distribution Aug. 31.
Toledo has so far received $531,616 in casino revenue, which includes its $192,041 share of Lucas County’s distribution as well as a host city distribution of $339,575.
City Finance Director Patrick McLean said the entire amount went into the city’s general fund. The city’s 2012 budget includes a projected $3.4 million in casino revenue.
In future years, the city hopes to dedicate some of its casino revenue to the city’s rainy day fund, McLean said.
“We weren’t able to do that for 2012. We may be able to do it for 2013. We will make those kinds of decisions as part of our 2013 budget preparations, which are under way right now,” McLean said.
Lucas County received $192,041, which went into the county’s general fund, said Kelly Roberts, director of the county’s Office of Management and Budget. Lucas County’s 2012 budget includes a projected $545,000 in casino tax revenue.
“We’re hoping to hit our estimate,” Roberts said. “We’re hoping it doesn’t replace the local government funds, that we keep getting the funds we’re getting and that the casino revenue doesn’t offset it and replace it.”
Wood County’s distribution of $110,296 was allocated to the county engineer’s road and bridge fund, said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. Kalmar said the Wood County Commissioners will evaluate the county’s needs each quarter before deciding where to spend casino revenue.
“There is no certain projection at the moment how much casino tax will come in, even in the next year or two years,” Kalmar said. “Our presumption is people will initially be excited about casinos and new places to go and the tax revenue might be a little higher, but then after a while that might come down to a more regular level. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Cleveland received about $1.2 million in casino revenue, including its $554,424 share of Cuyahoga County’s distribution and a host city payout of $648,431.
Cleveland City Council passed legislation last year allocating 15 percent to council and 85 percent to the administration’s general fund, but no specifics are available regarding where those funds will be applied, said City of Cleveland press secretary Andrea Taylor.
Cuyahoga County received a distribution of $554,424. The money is in a general fund while members discuss proposed legislation, said Cuyahoga County Council Chief of Staff Joe Nanni. One recent proposal suggested using the money to promote downtown and suburban economic development as well as help fund educational initiatives, Nanni said.
“It’s nice to have, but no matter what we do we will be limited in what we can do, compared to the municipality here,” Nanni said. “There’s not a whole lot to go around.”
More than 200 miles removed from glitz of the slot machines and the glam of the gaming tables, Ohio’s least-populous county is also benefiting from bets wagered at the state’s two casinos. Half comprised of public land, including vast tracts of state forests and wildlife areas, South-central Ohio’s Vinton County has just over 13,000 residents and received $11,668, the state’s smallest distribution.
“I can tell you right now, it’s going directly into the general fund to try and make up some of the money we’ve lost,” said Vinton County Commissioner Mike Bledsoe. “We appreciate it’s there, no doubt about that, but it’s not going to a rainy day fund or a slush fund. It’s just another fund we hope will help us keep our head above water, which we’re sinking fast.”
Vinton County Auditor Cindy Owings Waugh said she’s glad Ohio is benefitting from gambling rather than another state, but she isn’t yet comfortable counting on any certain revenue level.
“The casino money is so new. We can’t count on it. It’s a new thing. People want to try it out and half those people might never go back. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch. I would need a couple more years before I started counting on that money,” Waugh said.
Waugh said she is eagerly anticipating the Oct. 8 opening of Hollywood Casino Columbus, about 75 miles away, because it will offer much-needed job opportunities as well as increase state casino revenue.
“We will have jobs from that. People will drive. I have no doubt in my mind someone from Vinton County will be employed there,” Waugh said. “There are no jobs here. One job to us means a lot. There are not the employment opportunities there are in other places for Vinton County.”
As stipulated by state law, a county’s distribution will be split with that county’s largest city if the city had more than 80,000 residents according to the 2000 census. Canton and Youngstown have since dropped below 80,000 residents, but will still receive payouts because the language of the bill bases the distributions on 2000 figures.
Cleveland suburb Parma had a population of 85,655 residents in 2000, but won’t get any casino tax revenue because it is Cuyahoga County’s second largest city behind Cleveland.
Horseshoe Casino Cleveland became the first casino in the state when it opened May 14. Hollywood Casino Toledo opened May 29. Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati is set to open in spring 2013.
To view the complete tax distribution list, visit www.tax.ohio.gov and click on the “Casino Tax News” icon. To view the full monthly casino revenue reports, visit casinocontrol.ohio.gov and click on “Monthly Casino Revenue.”