Clark leaders say casino money too unpredictable

County governments, schools see drop in their share of gambling money.

Clark and Champaign county governments have seen a drop in casino revenue for the second consecutive quarter.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the casino funds are an unreliable source of funding that do not replace the state’s cuts in local government funds.

“This is definitely a help, and we’re glad to get it. But casino money is an unknown and can go down,” Detrick said.

Clark County will receive more than $416,000 this month, down nearly 3 percent since July, when the county received more than $428,000. Champaign County will get about $120,000, down from more than $123,000 in July.

Clark County has received more than $2.3 million since counties in Ohio began receiving casino tax revenue in July 2012.

Schools in Clark and Champaign counties will get more than $792,000 combined, according to a report released this week by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

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

The Springfield City School District will get more than $194,000, according to the report.

But Springfield school officials say the funding makes up only a half a percent of the district’s $82 million budget.

“The casino money is nice to have, but its such a small amount,” said Springfield Controller Dale Miller said. “We do appreciate the support … But this is not a solution (to school funding).”

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 share 34 percent of that tax revenue and receive two casino payments per year. Local governments receive four casino payments each year, and the January distribution will be the seventh payment for Clark County since casinos opened.

Ohio casinos have fallen short of revenue projections, resulting in smaller than expected payouts to local governments in Clark and Champaign counties as well as other entities statewide.

Overall casino-tax revenue was more than $68.7 million for the quarter ending Dec. 31, a drop from the $70.2 million collected in the previous quarter in October of last year, according to a report by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

State officials predicted the casinos would bring in nearly $940 million in taxable gross revenue in fiscal year 2014, said Fred Church, deputy director of the Ohio Office of Budget Management.

But if recent monthly revenue figures continue, Church estimated recently that casinos could be on pace to gross about $850 million.

“Do I think it’s going to be lower than $940 million? Yes. But I don’t have enough experience with this to know how this is going to play out,” Church said.

Church said predicting how the casinos will perform is difficult because they have not been operating long enough. He said more would be known in a couple years.

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