November 25, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
36°F

Casino money in Ohio less than expected

CLEVELAND — Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal suggests that revenue from Ohio’s four voter-approved casinos could be about half of what officials had predicted years ago.

The Plain Dealer reported that state officials estimated four years ago that the casinos could take in as much as $1.9 billion a year after all were in operation.

But Kasich’s budget proposal issued Tuesday projects that gross casino revenue will be $957.7 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It could rise to just over $1 billion in the following fiscal year.

The figure is significant because smaller revenues mean fewer tax dollars for the state.

Officials say the lower estimate takes into account competition from racinos and lower-than-expected revenues at the three casinos already operating.

School districts are happy to get their share of casino taxes, but some say the money won’t make up for cuts in state education aid.

The state has passed out more than $111 million in casino taxes, mostly to counties, cities and school districts, since the first three of four Ohio casinos opened last year.

According to The Plain Dealer, the latest casino tax distributions went out during the past week.

Berea school officials will use their first check for $142,512 for general operating expenses.

Interim Berea school treasurer Dale Cummins said declining property values and the state’s decision to cut reimbursement for phased-out business taxes have cost the district $2.5 million this fiscal year. She said the casino money “doesn’t even begin to cover the reductions.”

The Shaker Heights schools have lost $8 million in state funding in the last two years, spokeswoman Peggy Caldwell said. She said the district will add $112,437 in casino taxes to reserves.

She said the money was welcome but “is a very, very small amount in the context of the state cuts.”

Lorain County has netted $1.5 million since last year and put the money into a $52 million operating budget. Budget Director Lisa Hobart said the casino taxes will partially offset the loss of state funds and interest income in the last few years.

Cleveland received $2.5 million in casino taxes and has taken in almost $6 million since last year. Finance Director Sharon Dumas estimated that the city will receive $11.4 million this year, which will include taxes on a casino set to open March 4 in Cincinnati.

Casinos opened last year in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration will keep 85 percent of the money, putting a portion into downtown police protection and cleanup and spending some of the rest on roads, bridges and city buildings, Dumas said. The remaining 15 percent will go to City Council members for projects in their wards.

Ohio charges a 33 percent tax on the gambling revenue casinos have left after paying winners. Under a formula in the state constitution, 51 percent is divided among the state’s 88 counties, based on population, and 34 percent goes to school districts, according to enrollment.

Eight cities that had populations of at least 80,000 in the 2000 census — and ranked as the largest city in their respective counties — get half of their county shares. Cleveland and the three other casino cities claim 5 percent of the local casino’s gross.