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$635K in casino money for Clark, Champaign schools

Clark and Champaign county schools will get more than $635,000 and Clark County government will receive more than $318,000 in casino revenue this month, according to a report released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

The money will be distributed to the county and school districts Jan. 31, and will mark the first time schools will receive a share of the casino money.

The Springfield City School District will get more than $154,000, according to the report.

But city school leaders aren’t celebrating the windfall, Springfield Controller Dale Miller said, because the district saw $4.8 million in cuts in the 2012-2013 state budget.

“The casino money is nice,” Miller said. “We’re looking at a new revenue source, but don’t lose sight of what we’ve lost. You have to remember this is going into an $82 million budget.”

Ohio voters in 2009 amended the state constitution to allow casinos in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati. The state levies a 33 percent tax on adjusted gross gambling revenue, which is the amount left after winners are paid.

School districts in Ohio will share 34 percent of that tax revenue and will receive two casino payments per year. Local governments receive four casino payments each year and the January distribution will be the third payment for Clark County.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the casino taxes for the county are higher than expected.

“For three casinos this is a good amount and a fourth casino will be coming on in Cincinnati. If this continues for another quarter or two, we will be able to look at some assistance for cities, villages and townships. But it’s still a little too early to draw a conclusion,” Detrick said.

The most recent distribution figures were announced a day after the Ohio Casino Control Commission released its monthly casino revenue report showing all three casinos combined to bring in more than $56.6 million in December, up 5 percent from $54 million in November.

The Hollywood Casino in Columbus, however, collected $17.9 million in revenue in December, the lowest since it opened. The casino, which opened Oct. 8, brought in $18.2 million its first month and $20 million in November.

Overall casino revenue has been inconsistent since the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland and Hollywood Casino in Toledo opened in May. The lower than expected casino revenue prompted the Ohio County Commissioners Association to report late last year that casino revenues would likely be 20 to 25 percent below original estimates.

As of Jan. 31, Clark County government will have received a total of more than $678,900, and county commissioners have been asked by area municipalities and the New Carlisle Library to share the money.

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said county officials won’t make plans for the money until at least November because casino revenues remain in flux.

“I would think by the next budgeting cycle that we’ll be able to say, ‘Here’s what we can count on,’” Lohnes said.

The Hollywood Casino Toledo collected $20.4 million in June, but dropped to $13.5 million by November. The Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland saw collections fall from $26 million in June to $20.4 million in November.

Both casinos saw increases in revenue in December, with the Horseshoe bringing in $24.5 million in December and the Toledo casino collecting $14 million.

Clark County received $120,000 in casino revenue in July and more than $239,000 in October.

Commissioner John Detrick said he was surprised Columbus casino revenue dropped and questioned whether the holidays, freezing temperatures and snow storms contributed to the decline.

“(Columbus) is probably the most able economically. They have a lower unemployment rate than Toledo and Cleveland. But this backs up my belief that it’s an unstable revenue stream,” Detrick said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get from one month to the next.”

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