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The empty row of slot machines squawking for players can’t drown out Marla Wagner as she yells at her friend to take a smoke break at the Hollywood Casino on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Bars and restaurants typically fill with friends and relatives reuniting before the holiday, but here, cocktail waitresses are short on tips and blackjack dealers help rookie card players at half-filled tables.
“We live near Dayton and drove over, and I thought this place would be packed, but it’s dead,” said Wagner, 46. “I wonder if the slots will ever hit since there isn’t anyone playing them.”
There have been winners in the first year with all four casinos open in Ohio. But weak attendance has left the state and many cash-strapped cities and counties waiting on the jackpot anticipated when voters approved the casinos.
The lackluster performance has led Columbus officials to reduce their expectations. Other major Ohio cities that banked more heavily on casino taxes have seen revenue shortfalls.
The four casinos are on pace to gross about $868 million this fiscal year, $90 million less than what Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget anticipated in the spring.
Gross casino revenue is taxed at 33 percent, and nearly all of the tax money is dispersed to cities, counties and school districts.
Kasich’s revenue estimate of just under $1 billion was the most conservative at any point since the casino proposal was put before voters in 2009. And it was still high.
The Ohio Department of Taxation estimated in 2009, before the vote, that the casinos would generate $1.9 billion in annual tax revenue.
The state hired Spectrum Gaming Group of Atlantic City, N.J., in 2011 to predict casino revenue, and the company determined that it would be about $1.1 billion….
Read more here: The Columbus Dispatch
Contact: Michael Murphy