Earlier this month, the Hollywood Casino opened on the outskirts of Columbus. About 25,000 gamblers showed up for the opening day festivities.
In 2009, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the construction of four casinos — one each in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati. When the constitutional amendment was considered in 2009, state officials estimated that the 33 percent tax on gross casino revenues from the four casinos, plus approved video lottery terminals, would produce $470 million annually in tax revenue. The promise of that kind of tax contribution, plus the jobs the casinos would create, caused Ohio voters to end their long-standing opposition to casino gambling in the state.
The Columbus casino is the third to open, following casinos in Cleveland and Toledo. It’s early yet, but the trend lines in Cleveland and Toledo aren’t knocking anyone’s socks off. For both of those casinos, June was the first full month of operation — and also was the high point for revenue, which has declined every month since June. In Cleveland, revenue has declined from $26.1 million in June to $21.1 million in September; in Toledo, revenue has dropped from $20.4 million in June to $15.9 million in September. The casino operators and experts say that the novelty of a new casino wears off and it takes a while for standard gambling patterns to get settled, and that the Ohio casinos might not follow the patterns seen in other locations. The casinos also are tweaking their operations as they learn their markets; in Cleveland, for example, the Horseshoe Casino is now formally welcoming bus tours and providing some slots credits to entice bus visitors.
A few months won’t tell the tale, of course, but you have to wonder if we’ve reached the casino saturation point in this country, and there just isn’t that large of a market for more casino gambling.