Madison County hits ‘jackpot’
By Jane Beathard
The new Hollywood Columbus Casino awarded more than $4 million in slot machine jackpots during its first three weeks of operation. Jackpots of $25,000, $50,000 and $125,000 contributed to that total, according to an Oct. 31 press release.
Madison County also hit something of a jackpot last week, receiving $75,615 in tax revenues generated by Ohio’s three new casinos, according to auditor Jennifer Hunter.
That payment, the second awarded by the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT), fell short of the $89,406 Hunter expected to receive. Her expectation was based on an independent analysis by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO).
Association spokesman Brad Cole said casino revenues are running 20 to 25 percent less than predicted in June by a CCAO consultant. He said the Scioto Downs “racino” and the state’s 800 Internet gambling cafes siphon off gamblers that would otherwise patronize Las Vegas-style casinos in Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland. Counties don’t benefit from racino and Internet gaming.
In addition, the Cincinnati casino is yet to open, Cole said.
Tama Davis of the Ohio Casino Control Commission said it’s still too early in the game to project success or failure for the state’s gambling industry.
“It’s an unknown business in Ohio. You need a full year of revenue to see what is normal,” Davis said. “You need historical data.”
Counties across the state received a combined total of $15,428,206 in casino-generated taxes last week. Major cities and casino host cities received additional money, according to the ODT Web site.
Ohio’s licensed casinos are taxed at 33 percent of their gross revenues (total wagers minus winnings paid out).
Tax revenues are split among seven funds benefiting the 88 counties and some major cities, school districts, casino host cities, the casino commission, the Ohio State Racing Commission, law enforcement training, and problem gambling and addiction services. The largest chunk — 51 percent — goes to the counties.
Clamoring by London and other towns in Madison County for shares of the casino tax continues to fall on deaf ears. The 2009 constitutional amendment that opened the door to casino gambling in Ohio does not provide for a redistribution of gaming tax revenues beyond the county level. Locally, the commissioners are not in a sharing mood.
“We hope the casino dollars will ease the pain of losing local government funds from the state,” said commissioner Dave Dhume. “Next year will see a 50 percent reduction in our local government funds.”
Dhume said the county is already putting its gambling revenues to good use, allocating some to the sheriff, prosecutor and courts to combat the area’s current wave of drug-related crime.
Other money will make much-needed repairs and improvements to the county courthouse.
“We’ll do work that’s been neglected since 2008,” Dhume said.
Madison County received a first payment of casino tax revenues — $37,885 — in July. The next statewide disbursement will come in January 2013. County payments are based on population, Hunter said.