The fifth time was the charm for supporters of gaming in Ohio. Voters had rejected the approval of casinos in Ohio four times over the last couple decades, but apparently the Buckeye State’s fiscal concerns trumped the opposition as the referendum to allow land-based gambling operations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo was approved with 53% of the vote in November’s election. Gaming in Ohio will certainly help that state with its revenue problems, but will just as certainly make Indiana’s fiscal picture worse by cutting into our gaming tax revenues.
Indiana currently receives about $250 million dollars a year from three riverboats that are within a short drive of Cincinnati. It is estimated that up to 38% of the riverboat patrons come from out of state. The Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg and Grand Victoria Casino & Resort in Rising Sun are just minutes from Cincinnati and could both be seriously impacted by a casino there. The Belterra Casino Resort & Spa in Vevay is a little further down the Ohio River, but likely would also feel the effects.
Additionally, the other casinos could draw away some of the traffic at the already greatly suffering Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson. All told, Indiana gaming tax revenues could drop by as much as $100 million. These likely future losses to Indiana follow the losses now being experienced at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City due to the opening of a new tribal casino last year just across the border in Michigan. In addition, Kentucky could well be the next state to siphon off revenues as the pressure mounts to allow slots at its horse tracks.
Bottom line: As more players enter the game, Indiana’s share of the winnings is sure to diminish.
When Penn National Gaming this summer opens its $326 million expansion at Lawrenceburg, it will be celebrated for the 125 contractors it employed during construction.
And the 250 new employees now being hired to operate the Hollywood-themed attraction.
And the glitzy trappings of the Vegas-scale gaming parlor, with its 300 plasma screens and 60-foot video board.
And the fancy décor, with its indoor replicas of the Hollywood Bowl, a city park and an urban streetscape.
But few will recognize the new Lawrenceburg casino for what it really is: an act of self-defense.
“This will expand our boundaries,” said Tony Rodio, general manager of the Penn National property on the Lawrenceburg riverfront, which will change its name from Argosy to Hollywood upon its opening in mid-July.
During a recent tour of the nearly finished casino, Rodio said the 270,000-square-foot expansion and its Hollywood rebranding will be part of a larger attempt by Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National to lay down roots in Cincinnati. Rodio wants to reclaim customers lost to two new horse-track casinos in Indianapolis and prevent encroachment by developers who have staked claims to potential casino sites from Louisville to Wilmington…
The casino will have 800 more slots, two dozen more poker tables and a VIP lounge that can host up to 110 people for dinners and private parties. Its 60-by-8-foot serpentine video screen will play movie trailers, promotional messages and memorable movie scenes on a 24-7 scrolling loop.