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Casinos deal out tax revenue

Andy Ouriel • Jan 18, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Just like gamblers with unrealistic expectations of becoming wealthy, a payout driven by casino taxes falls well short of a jackpot area officials hoped would happen.

About $4 million in casino-related taxes have funneled into the coffers of Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky counties since Ohio’s first regulated gaming establishment opened in spring 2012, according to a Register analysis of state data.

A portion of all casino-generated revenue — be it from coins in slot machines, chips on table games or any other currency wagered in one of four approved Buckeye-based gaming establishments — goes back to county governments.

At $1.3 million, Erie County hauled in the most casino money of the four counties since the first casino debuted.

“I am pleasantly surprised with this amount because Ohio came late to the game of casino gambling versus other states, which have been doing it for years,” Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo said.

But, like players striking 20 at blackjack only to have the dealer trump their count at 21, some county officials feel a bit disappointed.    Casino taxes aimed to fully make up for massive cuts in local government funds authorized by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The funds help daily county services, such as court, sheriff and maintenance operations.

In reality, however, casino taxes won’t match how much county officials envisioned.

Case in point: Erie County’s finance employees projected they’d receive about $1 million in casino revenues in 2013.

The amount actually totaled $920,000, based on taxes collected reflective in 2013.

“We had anticipated that we were going to get enough money from the casinos to completely offset the majority of the reductions from the state on local government funding,” Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan said.

A less-than-stellar casino haul, however, didn’t compromise Erie County’s finances or services, Monaghan and Shenigo said. The county avoided implementing layoffs, reducing services or some other negative action through frugal financial planning and finding savings elsewhere in lieu of casino money.

A statewide voting initiative approved in 2009 allowed construction of the four casinos — one each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

Among various stipulations, executives overseeing all four casinos must share their profits with Ohio’s 88 counties and the state’s eight most populated cities.

These governments receive money based on population figures. The more people living in a city or county, the more money that county’s government is entitled to — dependent, of course, on how much players wagered at casinos.

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