Spending at casinos is up nationally with the help of new casinos, including those in Ohio that opened last year.
The annual report from the American Gaming Association, released yesterday, showed total spending at casinos in 23 states hit $37.34 billion last year, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2011 and the second highest total ever. Ohio gamblers contributed $429.8 million to the total.
At the same time, tax revenues flowing to state and local communities rose to $8.6 billion, an 8.5 percent jump over 2011, the association said in its State of the States report on the industry.
“Gambling has just exploded in certain areas,” said Alan Silver, an Ohio University assistant professor of restaurant, hotel and tourism and a former casino executive.
“What’s helped the revenue numbers escalate has a lot to do with new casinos in states like Ohio and the addition of racinos across the country,” he said, such as Scioto Downs Racetrack & Casino, which opened in June.
The national report said Ohio casinos paid $138 million in gambling tax revenue last year, employed 4,197 people, and paid $91.2 million in wages, benefits and tips. Even though the Buckeye State’s casinos weren’t all open the full year, Ohio’s total gambling revenue jumped ahead of seven other states’, according to the report.
Ohio last year became the 23rd casino state. The statistics do not include full years for all of the state’s four casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati. The Cincinnati casino opened this year, while Hollywood Casino Columbus opened about seven months ago.
Some casino watchers have expressed concern that Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of producing the overall income and tax revenue originally projected in 2009. Some attribute the erosion of casino revenue to Internet sweepstakes cafes, which remain legal, unregulated and untaxed in Ohio.
“It has been a little disappointing so far,” Silver said, predicting revenue from the four casinos will be about $1 billion this year and $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in 2014. When all seven of Ohio’s racinos are open, which could be by the end of 2014, the revenue would also be about $1 billion a year, he said.
The growth in casino spending also is tied to the recovering economy, experts said. When economic futures look brighter, people have a little extra cash to burn on entertainment. Casinos are no exception.
As more states legalize casinos, neighboring states often are pressured into following suit, for fear of missing out on a slice of the multibillion-dollar pie.
“It’s truly a domino impact,” said Robert Stocker, a former president of the International Masters of Gaming Law, a research group for industry professionals. “It used to be viewed as very sinful, and it doesn’t have that same status anymore. People are viewing it as just another entertainment venue.”
Not surprisingly, Nevada was the gambling hot spot of the nation last year, with $10.86 billion in revenues, followed by Pennsylvania ($3.16 billion), New Jersey ($3.05 billion), Indiana ($2.61 billion) and Louisiana ($2.4 billion).
Casino employment showed a slight decline to 332,000 in 2012, with $13.2 billion paid to employees in wages and benefits.
The report also included public-opinion polling that found that about one-third of Americans said they visited a casino in the past year. Adults aged 21 to 35 were the most-frequent visitors; nine of 10 young gamblers said they would likely return.
By Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
Dispatch Reporters Steve Wartenberg and Ian Kullgren contributed to this report.
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services