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Casino tax revenue falls


Published: Sun, October 13, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

After five-consecutive quarters of growth, casino tax revenue to Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties and Youngstown has dropped for the first time, but the decline was slight.

In the sixth quarterly distribution this fall, revenue was $364,856 each to Mahoning County and to Youngstown, compared with $366,941 to each in July.

For Trumbull County, the numbers were $643,631 this month, compared with $647,310 in July.

For Columbiana County, the figures were $330,517 and $332,406, respectively.

“It could be attributable to the fact that it was the summer months when you had lots of other things going on,” including outdoor activities, said Kyle Miasek, deputy Youngstown finance director, referring to the summer seasonal casino activity that generated the October revenue.

He added, however, “We need to wait to be able to make that type of conclusion when we get our next payment,” in January. “If we don’t see it dip again, it could be attributable to the fact that people were doing other things, and that may be a seasonal trend,” he said.

Carol Rimedio-Righetti, chairwoman of Mahoning County commissioners, said the decline in revenues may be due to competing summer outdoor activities and to people taking summer vacations elsewhere.

“You can’t predict gambling,” Righetti said. The amount of casino gambling that will occur in the final quarter of this year could increase as the weather cools and people’s activities move indoors, or it could decrease if government-shutdown and debt-ceiling jitters discourage people who depend on government benefits from gambling, she said.

“We’re predicting that it’ll stay around the $360,000 mark for Mahoning County, and hoping that it’ll come in at that amount or more,” Righetti said.

“We’ve achieved what we estimated we would collect in ’13, and we are pleased to achieve that target,” Miasek said on behalf of the city.

The October decline in income from the 33 percent gross casino revenue tax will cause city officials “to be conservative in our forecast going forward,” he said.

“It’s too early to determine if we’ve peaked” in quarterly revenue because the Cincinnati casino, which opened March 4, doesn’t yet have a full year’s experience, he noted. The Columbus casino observed its first anniversary Tuesday. The Cleveland and Toledo casinos opened in May 2012.

“I’m guessing we’re at the peak now because all the casinos are open,” said Frank Fuda, Trumbull County Commissioner.

“The competition’s going to get even worse next year,” as more racetrack and casino combinations, known as racinos, open. “They’re all places to gamble,” he said of the casinos and racinos.

Fuda predicted tax revenue from the four Ohio casinos will decline next year because of the emergence of racinos, but he said the amount of decline won’t be known until all of the planned racinos open.

“It’s wait and see. We’re in an evolving, maturing gaming market in Ohio,” observed Tama Davis, communications director for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which regulates the four casinos.

“People are staying at home in Ohio to gamble because they have that option,” and no longer need to leave the state to experience casino gambling, Davis said.

She also noted, however, that emerging Ohio racinos will be “competing for pretty much the same entertainment dollar.”

Scioto Downs in Columbus opened as a racino in June 2012, and Thistledown in North Randall opened as a racino earlier this year. Both always had horse racing, Davis noted.

Five more Ohio racinos are slated to open by the end of 2014, including the Penn National Gaming racino in Austintown, which will be known as the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, she said. The racinos are regulated by the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Like lottery proceeds, the racino taxes will go to a state fund that supports public education, and none of the racino tax revenue will go to county or city governments, Davis said.

Fuda said, however, the racinos will help local economies and generate spin-off hotel-bed tax and sales-tax revenues.


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