- Ohio has four commercial casinos and seven racetracks with video lottery terminals
- The gambling sector had a record-breaking year in 2018
- It is carrying on in a similar vein in 2019, as February revenues increased by 5.5%
Ohio’s historic gambling scene
A public referendum in November 2009 made casinos legal in Ohio. The Four Casinos Ballot Initiative gave the go-ahead for casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.
The bill also allowed the state’s seven horse racing tracks to open up video lottery terminals in their facilities. This was done to help keep them open because racing no longer generates the revenues that it did in the past.
As part of the deal, the racetracks committed to investing over $80m (£61m) in improving their facilities. The minimum age at which a person could gamble was lowered from 21 to 18 years old. The first of the legal commercial casinos began operating in 2012.
Since the federal ban on sports betting was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 2018, many states are looking to legalize the activity. Among them is Ohio, which will consider a sports betting bill during the 2019 legislative session.
Sport is a massive draw in the state and legal sports betting would likely be a major success. However, state lawmakers are not rushing to get a bill through as fast as possible. Instead, they are going to ensure that a proper foundation is in place to avoid any potential problems.
Historic performance of the gambling sector
The performance of the casinos has improved each year since they first opened. They have been ambitious with their forecasts; revenues of about $1.4bn (£1.1bn) were projected for the 2018 fiscal year. However, the actual revenues reached only 60% of this target, at $837m (£640m).
Some point toward the fact that the racetracks take a significant chunk of potential revenue from the casinos through their 17,000 video lottery terminals. This means that a lot of gamblers frequent the racetracks and don’t go to the casinos very often or even at all.
Taxes from the video lottery terminals go toward education, while casino tax revenues are used for a variety of projects.
Although casino revenues have fallen a bit short, the state’s economy is still benefiting through both tax revenues and the 20,000+ jobs that have been created.
Major gambling companies show growing interest in Ohio. For examples, MGM Resorts bought the biggest resort casino in the state in 2018 for about $1bn (£765m). Because of its location between Cleveland and Akron, it is the highest grossing casino in Ohio.
Despite not hitting their forecasts for 2018, it was still a year that broke historic records. The racinos and casinos brought in total revenues of $1.86bn (£1.42m). Revenues for racinos rose by 7% over 2017, moving past the $1bn mark.
Casinos showed a 2% increase. The government takes about a third of all revenues through taxes. Therefore, 2018 saw tax revenues of about $620m (£475m).
There is no sign of slowing down in 2019. February revenues increased by 5.5% over February of 2018.
The latest figures from the state commission show that the total revenues for the month were $147.1m (£112.5m). All of the casinos saw increases in their revenues. All of the racinos also saw increases, bringing their total revenues to $85m (£65m).