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Blackjack and slots play key role in Ohio economy says new study

When Ohio legalized certain forms of casino gambling at state-licensed facilities in 2011, its two existing racetracks (Raceway Park and Beulah Park) relocated to progress expansion campaigns, while 9 more casinos and racinos were built around the state. Revenue from slots and blackjack tables started pouring in as of 2012, escalating to more than a billion dollars in 2013. Though that figure is below projected estimations, the increase in generated tax revenue and subsequent decline in the unemployment rate are clear signs that blackjack has become a key component of economic growth in Ohio.

According to a study commissioned by the American Gaming Association and newly released by Oxford Economics, the state’s 11 existing casinos and racinos filtered $2.2 billion into the economy in 2013. Nearly a third of Ohio’s gambling revenue goes straight to local, state and federal tax coffers, which amounted to $672.5 million last year. More importantly to the citizens of the Buckeye State, gambling facilities are responsible for the employment of an estimated 14,000 Ohioans and $547 million in payroll income, from security crews, floor managers, cashiers and bartenders, to slots assistants, roulette croupiers and blackjack dealers.

Geoff Freeman, Chief Executive Officer of the AGA, was excited by the results, but understands that innovation is the key to sustained growth. “This study shows that gaming is driving big results in Ohio. However, given increased competition and changing consumer demands, our future success depends on strong partnerships with policymakers that allow us to innovate, reinvent and create more jobs,” said Freeman.

The Director of Oxford Economics, Adam Sacks, said, “The research reveals a vast industry that boosts local communities across Ohio by supporting jobs and generating customers for businesses. Sacks went on to describe the industry’s outlying benefits to the community, explaining that “relatively high tax and regulatory requirements” are able to support “a wide range of government services in the state”

The heads of Hollywood Casino Columbus couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. “I think this shows we create a lot of economic impact and jobs,” said the facilities Vice President and General Manager, Himbert Sinopoli. As an example, Sinopoli pointed out that Hollywood Casino employs 1,025 individuals, 48% of which earn at least $20/hr.

Sinopoli said that, thanks to the legalization of slots, blackjack and other casino style gambling amusements, his business has been able to deliver $4.5 million to the state in annual property taxes, and another $4 million in payroll taxes. “We see a lot of positives for people who were unemployed or underemployed and their families.”

According to the results of a nationwide poll conducted earlier this year by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies, Americans favor casino gaming by a margin of 2-to-1. “More than 70 percent of voters recognize that casinos create jobs,” read the report on AGA, and “Nearly 60 percent of voters know that casinos boost local economies”. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the majority of respondents felt that “casinos shouldn’t pay more taxes than other businesses.”

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