Sat. 11:27 p.m.: Casino revenues fall short for Trumbull, other Ohio counties

COMING SUNDAY: Because wagering at Ohio’s four casinos has not seen the forecasted increase, area officials are not banking on revenue from the state’s Casino Tax Revenue Fund to balance their budgets.

For example, the state’s two most recent disbursements – from the final quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of this year – to Trumbull County added up to $30,623 less than previous payouts – calling for the county to refrain from betting on the tax as a reliable revenue source.

“The casinos aren’t bringing in revenue that was originally projected,” Adrian Biviano, Trumbull County auditor, said.

Reasons could be everything from too much competition from other states to not enough parking at Ohio casinos to people just aren’t really enthused about the gaming sites, according to state officials. Whatever the reasons, revenues aren’t keeping up with projections.

“We’ve reduced our budget based on projections and information from (the Ohio Office of Budget and Management),” Biviano said. “We have to go on what the experts tell us. The payouts are reduced and they don’t expect much of an uptick.”

Ohio has four casinos. The first two opened in Cleveland and Toledo in May 2012. Two others, one in Columbus and another in Cincinnati, opened in October 2012 and February 2013, respectively.

Each of the four casinos is required by Ohio Revised Code to file and remit taxes to the state daily. The revenue accumulates in the Ohio Casino Tax Revenue Fund. From there, 51 percent is transferred to the Gross Casino Revenue County Fund, from where it is distributed quarterly to each of the state’s 88 counties, based on population.

If the most-populated city located in that county had a population more than 80,000 based on the 2000 census, that city is to receive 50 percent of the county’s money. Warren is not among those cities; Youngstown is.

Kyle Miasek, Youngstown’s deputy finance director, said the city does not earmark most of its funding sources, including casino revenues. The funds are deposited into the city’s general fund and used, as other money sources, to cover expenses.

“It’s not like we say we’re going to use the casino money for this or for that,” Miasek said. “We include it in our budget planning, but we underestimate it. We’re very conservative with it. That way, if we get more than we expect, it’s a windfall. If we don’t, it’s not a major issue. We keep the target low.”

Read more in the Sunday Tribune Chronicle.