CLEVELAND — If there is one industry in Ohio that has picked up this year as fast as it shut down last, it is gambling. The revenue record for the state’s four casinos was set in March of 2013 before there was competition from the state’s seven racinos. The $84.3 million mark stood for eight years until it was topped by nearly 9% in March of this year with $91.6 million after all bets were paid. Then in April, they topped it again, $92.5 million.
While the statewide May number of $86.8 million didn't break those records, the revenue figure was still up 18.1% over May of 2019. The Jack properties saw the biggest jumps with the downtown casino up 25% over May of 2019 and Jack Thistledown up a whopping 50 percent over two years ago.
"I think there's a lot of factors, including people having a lot of pent-up energy in wanting to get back out into the public after being confined to their homes throughout COVID,” said Casey Clark, Senior Vice President with the American Gaming Association. “And even maybe some expendable income they saved throughout their pandemic."
There's no doubt that stimulus money and extended unemployment benefits played into the figures, but even with that expiring, the American Gaming Association anticipates the numbers to stay strong heading into summer.
"As capacity restrictions are lifted, as they have been recently in Ohio and elsewhere, more and more people will continue to seek out opportunities to do things, and I think casino gaming is one of them,” Clark said.
The state’s seven slots-only racinos were up 27.5% over May of 2019. In addition to Thistledown’s 50.7% jump of $19 million, MGM Northfield had a 14.4% jump with $25 million in revenue, all taking place with fewer machines for social distancing than they had in 2019.
This uptick in spending on gambling comes as the State Senate continues to hold hearings on sports betting, with more set for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Lawmakers are just 23 days away from the end of the month date they targeted for passage, promising supporters they will do it.
"I will commit to you that if this isn't done by June 30 you can come into my office and yell at me,” said State Senator Niraj Antani (R-Montgomery), a co-sponsor of the bill.
Sports betting will be taxed at 10%, with that money going to education. The racino revenues already benefit education through the Ohio Lottery, while the casino revenues are taxed at a rate of 33%, with that money going to help cities and counties in the state.
So that $86.8 million the casinos made in May means an additional $28.6 million in revenue that wasn't there last year.