Pharos-Tribune

Local News

March 6, 2013

Indiana's Losing Streak

As Indiana’s gambling revenue declines, neighboring Ohio opens

CINCINATTI — Standing inside the glittering, 400,000-square-foot Horseshoe Casino in the heart of this city’s downtown, Steve Rosenthal sounded like a happy man as he greeted an Indiana reporter who’d come for sneak peek of Ohio’s newest gambling hall.

As a partner in Rock Gaming, the company developing the $400 million venue that opened Monday, he’s counting on Ohio’s neighbors to cross the state border with fistfuls of cash and credit cards in hand.

“I would love to have Hoosiers come visit us,” said Rosenthal. “The casino is just one more reason to come to Cincinnati.”

Sounds so cordial, doesn’t it? But Ohio’s decision to get into the lucrative world of gaming is posing a serious threat to Indiana’s share of casino dollars and prompting a statehouse debate about how to respond.  

As Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati officially opened, it is the fourth big-city casino launched in the Buckeye state in 10 months – and the closest one to the Indiana border.

In location and amenities, it’s designed to be enticing: Just a short hop off the interstates that run through the city, the upscale casino is fronted by a crystal-chandeliered, glass-walled entryway that offers a sweeping view of the city’s downtown.  

Open 24/7, it features 2,000 slot machines, 87 table games, a VIP players’ lounge with limits as high as $50,000 a hand, a World Series of Poker room, a private bar for big spenders, (and one for low-rollers, too), and three outward-facing restaurants, including singer Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Also inside: 1,700 friendly employees, eager to make you feel welcome enough to willingly part with your money.

Ohioans long resisted Las Vegas-style gambling, sure of the ills it would bring. Three times, the state’s voters turned down gambling measures on the ballot before finally approving legalized casinos in 2009.

What changed? Hurting from the recession — and the related deep cuts in state services when tax revenues plunged — voters decided the estimated $1 billion being wagered annually by Ohio residents in neighboring states like Indiana needed to stay home.

“They were ready to recapture those dollars,” said Matt Shuler, executive director of the state’s Casino Control Commission. The theme the pro-casino campaign, Shuler said: “Ohio needs the money.”

Ohio only had to look to Indiana to see how fruitful gambling could be.

Since the mid-1990s, when it became the sixth state in the nation to legalize casino gaming, Indiana has raked in more than $10 billion in casino taxes and drawn millions of gamblers across state lines.  

Last year, Indiana’s 13 riverboat-, land-based and racetrack casinos saw $2.7 billion in gross gaming revenues and paid more than $450 million in wages and benefits to 14,000-plus employees.  

The American Gaming Association ranks Indiana as the third largest commercial gambling market in the nation.

“Indiana is a gaming state,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, whose district includes the Hoosier Park racetrack casino in Anderson. “That’s just the case.”

But fortunes are changing.

There are now 23 states with a cut of the action, and more than 1,200 commercial casinos competing for gaming dollars. More than half the states with legalized casinos have gotten into the game since 2008.

Indiana saw the problems coming. Three years ago, state fiscal analysts predicted the arrival of casinos in Ohio, coupled with casino expansion in Illinois and Michigan, would cut deeply into the competition for gambling dollars and the hefty tax revenue stream that helps fund essential public services in Indiana.

Now they’re witnessing their fears: In the short months they’ve been open, the casinos in Toledo, Columbus, and Cleveland have earned more than $404 million and generated $133 million in taxes. With Cincinnati, the total casino revenues in Ohio are predicted to hit almost $1 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Indiana is on a losing streak.

Admissions and revenue are down over the last three years.

Patronage at the state’s riverboat and land-based casinos have fallen under 2 million for the past five consecutive months. That’s the longest such streak in a decade, said Ed Feigenbaum, who tracks the numbers for his Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter.

“Things are only going to get worse,” Feigenbaum said. The additional casinos aren’t expanding the gaming market, he said, they’re “cannibalizing the market.”

January was a particularly gruesome month. Combined, Indiana’s five floating casinos on Lake Michigan saw the lowest revenues since December 2001. The six southern Indiana casinos had their worst month since January 2003.

Indiana legislators are trying to come to grips with the grim news. A bill that passed the state Senate last week would grant tax breaks to the state’s 10 riverboat casinos and allow them to relocate nearby to dry land. And it would give Indiana’s racetrack-casinos the ability to operate table games like craps, roulette, and blackjack.

But the complicated legislation, described by Feigenbaum as a “Rube Goldberg device,” faces an uncertain future in the House.

Opponents fear the tax breaks will cut too deeply into the tax revenue streams that the state and local communities where the casinos are located have come to rely on.

And Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis said the bill may be seen as an expansion of gambling – something his conservative caucus members will oppose.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane fears the legislation will simply die. “This issue is ‘Can we wait another year?’,” Lanane said. “In my opinion, if we put it off, the problem will only become more severe.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Mall mortgage up for auction The mortgage note for the Logansport Mall is scheduled to be sold at auction early next month. Foreclosure procedures for the mall began when lawyers for Algonquin State Bank, N.A., out of Algonquin, Ill., filed a complaint against the mall's owner -

    April 23, 2014

  • NWS-PT042314 Earth Day4.jpg Being kind to their mother: Lewis Cass students plant trees on Earth Day WALTON -- Weeks of planning came together Tuesday as students planted 22 trees on the grounds of Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School in observance of Earth Day. Amy Densborn, a science teacher at Lewis Cass, wanted to plant the trees so that students in s

    April 23, 2014 5 Photos

  • NWS-PT042314 Bags.jpg Students collect 2,475 pounds of plastic bags The Cass County Solid Waste Management District now knows to be careful what you ask for. The district opted to again this year host its plastic shopping bag contest for area elementary schools in observance of Earth Day. Overall, the district recei

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate sues for religious services at Miami County prison BUNKER HILL – A Native American inmate is suing the Miami Correctional Facility for violating his constitutional religious freedom after the prison last year terminated Native American worship services. Daniel Littlepage says in a class action lawsui

    April 22, 2014

  • Police blotter: April 22, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 22, 2014

  • NWS-PT042214 Indiana Beach Viper.jpg Monticello amusement park brings new thrills MONTICELLO -- Indiana Beach's first major steel roller coaster -- the Galaxi -- is being retired after 42 years. Don Hurd operated the ride as a park employee 35 years ago. "At that time, it was one of the biggest coasters around," he said. "It's one

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Southeastern school board reopens its search for a principal at Lewis Cass WALTON -- Southeastern School Corp. officials thought they had found their new principal for Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School. The position was offered to a candidate, but he declined to accept it, Superintendent Trudie Hedrick reported to the school b

    April 22, 2014

  • No Headline Provided Guests will be able to climb into a carved-out pumpkin that will circle above Indiana Beach in one of the park's latest rides -- the Pumpkin Ferris Wheel.

    April 22, 2014

  • shelly maness Woman arrested in meth lab find MACY — A narcotics investigation led to the recent arrest of a Fulton County woman on several drug charges. Shelly Maness, 35, Macy, was arrested on two felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine, possession of meth, possession of an illegal drug la

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police blotter: April 21, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 21, 2014

Featured Ads
More pharostribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
eEdition