MANSFIELD — Richland County commissioners say the county could begin receiving casino gambling tax proceeds next month.
The county is projected to receive $621,130 in casino proceeds for 2012, according to figures forwarded by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
Richland County government might actually might net less this year — $453,425 — once reductions from taxes levied on racetrack slot machines are factored in, Commissioner Ed Olson said.
For the first full year of casino distributions, 2013, it’s estimated Richland County government could receive $2,274,158 (or $1,660,136, once the reductions for slot machine are included).
“Those are the estimates,” Olson said. The county’s share could vary widely because of how Ohio distributes taxes on gambling.
County government may benefit from casino tax revenues under the plan approved by a statewide ballot issue allowing casino gambling in Ohio. But taxes collected specifically on slot machines at race tracks are forwarded to the State Lottery Commission, and then forwarded to school districts.
A state study estimated casino revenues would be reduced by 27 percent if video lottery terminals operate at Ohio’s seven race tracks.
“If it’s spent at the racetrack on slot machines, it’s not going to be spent at the casino,” Olson said. “That’s why the county’s expected revenue drops.”
In releasing the projected casino tax figures, the commissioners’ association said the 27 percent reduction would take place if all racetracks operate video lottery terminals — but said it’s not certain how many racetracks would have them in any given year.
Olson said release of casino tax revenues this early took county officials by surprise.
“Until this came, we were told not to expect any revenue prior to 2013,” he said. “Now they’re saying we’re going to receive the first check next month.”
The influx of cash could help ease some tough spending decisions. Richland County government has been operating with a 3 percent to 5 percent margin between anticipated revenues and planned spending, Olson said.
“The lack of being able to accumulate any sizable reserves has led to very conservative estimates of revenues,” he said.
The county tax commission, which met this week, reviewed projected revenues of $22 million for 2013. But commissioners have had $32.5 million in requests, Olson said.
That $10 million difference “looks more dramatic than what it really was” because the revenue estimate for next year included no casino tax revenues and no interest income, the commissioner said.
Under the constitutional amendment Ohio voters approved in 2009, 51 percent of casino gambling tax revenue would be set aside for counties, and distributed according to population. Figures forwarded by the commissioners’ association were based on estimated distribution four times annually.
Casino taxes collected from April through June will be distributed in July.
Under its projections for various counties’ share of casino revenue, Crawford County would receive up to $218,482 this year, and $799,934 next year. However, that could be reduced by use of racetrack slot machines to $159,492 this year, and $583,952 next year.
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