Ohio Casinos Open with High Hopes for Tax Revenues

Ohio became the 23rd state with legalized commercial gaming last week. View pictures of two of its new casinos.
by | May 24, 2012

The dice has been rolled: Ohio officially became the 23rd state with legalized commercial casino gaming last week when the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland opened its doors. The Hollywood Casino in Toledo will welcome visitors on May 29, while casinos in Cincinnati and Columbus are slated to premiere within the next year.

Gaming companies and state policymakers are gambling on the casinos’ success: the owners of the Horseshoe, which include Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Caesar Entertainment (whose flagship Caesar’s Palace is a Las Vegas Strip staple), spent $350 million on the 300,000-square-foot gaming complex located in the Historic Higbee Building in downtown Cleveland, the casino said in its opening release.

Supportive lawmakers endorsed and voters approved the project, and its three sister casinos, in 2009 with an eye toward increased revenue. Gross casino revenue will be taxed at 33 percent. Back in 2009, the Ohio Department of Taxation estimated that the four casinos and seven video lottery terminals that were eventually approved by voters would collectively bring in $470 million in annual tax revenue once all had opened.

Initial projections expect annual tax revenue of $100 million from the Horseshoe, which will go toward public school districts, the hosting cities, the 88 Ohio counties and several other state services, including gambling addiction treatment.

If those goals are met, the city of Cleveland will earn $29.7 million, Cuyahoga County will reap $18.7 million and county school districts will take $22.5 million after the first full year of operations, the casino estimated.

According to The Plain Dealer, Cuyahoga County executives began discussing what to do with their share of the impending revenue windfall during their most recent meeting Tuesday. County development director Larry Benders circulated a memo that proposed, among other things: improving public infrastructure with more open space and walkways and converting outdated office buildings into apartments.

Cleveland City Council members will be able to spend a portion of their tax revenue influx, 15 percent, on projects in their own wards, according to the newspaper. Suggestions for the remainder of the money include refurbishing public buildings and revitalizing the Public Square area, where the Horseshoe is located.

Toledo’s Hollywood Casino will be the second Ohio casino to open next Tuesday. Penn National Gaming, which has opened establishments in more than a dozen other states, pumped $320 million into the 250,000-square-foot gaming facility, according to the Toledo Blade.

The casino declined to issue official tax revenue projections, but the Blade has reported that Toledo city officials are expecting $3.4 million in revenue during the first year from the casino, which aims for a 1930s Los Angeles vibe.

The casinos in Cincinnati (also a Horseshoe property) and Columbus (a Penn Gaming property) are tentatively expected to open within the next year.

The Buckeye State’s gambling venture isn’t gravy for everyone, however: a widely circulated report released earlier this month estimated that Detroit could lose up to $30 million annually by 2015 after all four Ohio casinos open, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Michigan city’s three casinos contribute about 15 percent of the city’s budget (about $177 million in the most recent fiscal year). Detroit is already facing financial troubles in the form of a $200 million deficit.


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