DARKE COUNTY — In November 2009, 52 percent of voters in the Buckeye State went to the polls and approved a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling in the state.
Along with the allure of jobs, proponents of the measure promised more state revenue for communities. However, the reality seems to have fallen short of the promise, at least in terms of the money generated.
The most recently completed fiscal year, 2015 (July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015), shows a total disbursement $266,014,462 — far smaller than the annual amount projected by Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management (OBM) in 2009.
In 2009, OBM was charged with doing an analysis on the proposed casino amendment and its potential economic impact. It estimated the state’s total annual tax revenues to be “$470 million with competing VLT (video lottery terminal) facilities.”
For fiscal year 2015, the commission reported $808,673,302 in total casino revenue. In terms of the revenue collected by the state, $135,667,375.72 was earmarked for the counties (tax collections from the fourth quarter were distributed in July 2015, after the close of the fiscal year).
By law, 51 percent of casino tax revenue is earmarked for Ohio’s 88 counties. The amount distributed is based upon each county’s population.
The other payouts from casino revenue include 34 percent to the Student Fund, 5 percent to the Host City Fund, 3 percent each to the Ohio State Racing Commission and the Ohio Casino Control Commission and 2 percent each to the Law Enforcement Training Fund and the Problem Gambling and Addictions Fund.
The gambling establishments pay 33 percent of their revenue to the state, not including the regular state and local business taxes they must pay.
Of the money slated for county usage, Darke County received $149,369.74 for the April 1 to June 30 quarterly disbursement. This falls within the average amount the county receives every three months.
Commissioner Mike Rhoades said all casino money from the state goes into the county’s general fund, where it is used for a variety of purposes. However, he said it doesn’t come close to covering the county’s expenses.
“They said we were going to get a lot more revenue than what we’ve gotten,” he said. “It’s actually been quite a bit less. It helps, there’s no denying that. It covers some of our expenses, but not enough, though.”
Darke County Auditor Carol Ginn said, “I agree with Mike Rhoades that the revenue that we were to receive from the casinos is far below what was originally forecasted.”
“The citizen-initiated constitutional amendment contained language that forced the state to give most of the casino revenue to schools and counties. The legislation short-circuited the process by approving the racinos which drained away a huge amount of revenue from the casinos that was to go to the counties,” she said.
“The racinos revenue goes directly to the State of Ohio, the county doesn’t see any of this revenue,” Ginn added.