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Clark’s casino money tops $1M

Springfield, other entities won’t get a share of revenue because of state law.

Casino revenues for Clark County already have nearly surpassed projections for all of 2013, but officials have no plans to share the money with area municipalities.

Clark County will get more than $381,000 in casino tax revenue at the end of the month, bringing the county total this year to more than $700,000. That’s just $20,000 to $50,000 less than what officials expected for all of 2013.

Springfield, New Carlisle and Bethel Twp. officials and the New Carlisle Public Library have asked commissioners to share the money.

But county officials have been advised by the county prosecutor’s office that Ohio law prohibits them from giving the money to area municipalities and other organizations, Clark County commissioners said.

“We can’t arbitrarily disperse the money,” Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

Since Ohio cities and counties began getting casino tax revenue in June 2012, Clark County has received more than $1 million.

Clark County could receive about $1.4 million in casino revenue in 2013, County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said, or double what officials have received so far.

“At this rate it looks like we should crack $1 million (this year.) That is substantial, but it’s still not what the state had predicted. It’s not going to change how we’re going to do business,” Kennedy said.

Ohio casinos brought in more than $84 million combined last month, a nearly 52 percent increase due in part to the opening of the state’s fourth gaming facility in Cincinnati.

Horseshoe Cincinnati opened March 4 and by the end of the month banked more than $21 million.

The rising casino revenues means more for Clark and Champaign counties.

Champaign County will get $110,004 this month and received $92,147 in January.

Clark County received $318,831 in January and will get $381,481 at this end of this month.

Bethel Twp. Trustee David Finfrock said he thought commissioners were still considering the township’s request and hadn’t been told the county couldn’t legally share the money.

“I still don’t believe all that money was meant for the county commissioners. I think it needs to go to the local governments also,” Finfrock said.

Kennedy said the $700,000 in casino revenue is about 3 percent of the county’s $36 million general fund. Still, he said the total pales when compared to the state’s original projections of about $3 million per year for the county.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the January and April figures are a boon for the county.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that the money has come in, and we will use it prudently,” he said.

Detrick speculated that the money could bolster the rainy day fund or help offset renovation costs for the county courthouse and the A.B. Graham building, where the auditor, treasurer and recorder’s offices are located.

Both projects could cost about $1 million each, Kennedy said.

Lohnes said it’s too early to say how the money will be used, but it could offset local capital improvements costs, potential Ohio local government fund cuts and health care cost increases in the future.

“Officially, it’s not replacing the local government fund, but it’s certainly adding to the general fund,” Lohnes said.

Lohnes and Kennedy also said officials will have to wait until after the state budget is passed before they can determine the county’s financial standing and decide whether to extend the county’s expiring additional half-percent sales tax.

Lowering the half-percent sales tax by a quarter-percent would mean a loss of $3 million annually, and Lohnes said it’s too early to know if the county can rely on casino funds to fill that gap.

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