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Commissioners are hedging their bet with casino funds

August 5, 2012
Morning Journal News

Gambling foes kept casinos out of the Buckeye State for years while surrounding states cashed in on the loot. Now, Columbiana County and the rest of Ohio is beginning to reap benefits from the first two legal casinos in the state.

County commissioners recently announced the receipt of $93,898, thanks to casino gambling.

Over the past few months, casinos in Cleveland and Toledo opened, and state licensing law requires them to pay a 33 percent gross revenue tax, a portion of which goes to counties based on population.

The $93,898 which was due to be deposited with the county by the end of July represents a little over one month's worth of taxes generated by both casinos. The money will be paid to counties every quarter. School districts are also going to receive a share of the tax twice a year, starting in January. Two more casinos are scheduled to open, as well.

Commissioner Mike Halleck estimated that the annual casino revenue would be $700,000 to $800,000, which would offset the anticipated $600,000 in Local Government Fund loss. He wants to see the money used for unanticipated expenses like replacing a section of the county jail roof and repairing the roof at the county juvenile court building.

While commissioners are pleased with the windfall, they are wise to exercise caution in how they allocate the money. Bearing in mind that interest may wane after the novelty of these new casinos wears off, commissioners should not use this extra money for personnel costs and shouldn't rely on it for other budgetary needs. A rainy day fund for roof repairs and other unforeseen expenses is a good idea, but so is earmarking some of it for capital improvement projects which can be put on the back burner if gambling revenue declines.



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