Indiana News

Indiana Casinos May Face Their Own Fiscal Cliff

Spring opening of Cincinnati casino to put competitor on state's border

12/5/2012

Tens of millions of dollars may be at stake for Indiana when Cincinnati opens its first casino this spring.

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The Horseshoe Cincinnati will be the last of four casinos to open in Ohio after a 2009 referendum, and the closest to Indiana's borders. Casinos have opened this year in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.

Some Indiana casinos are going on offense. The Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun plans to open a new hotel, while Lawrenceburg is adding a convention center. But Casino Association of Indiana president Mike Smith says the casinos will be asking legislators for tax relief to make similar investments easier.

The association wants to make wagering taxes deductible on casinos' income taxes. And casinos have long sought reversal of a ruling that "free play" promotions are subject to the same wagering tax that would apply if you bought the chips yourself.

State budget analysts expect casino tax revenue to drop $25 million this fiscal year -- that's with Cincinnati online only for the last few months of the year. Smith says the competition could cost the state four times that.

Last fiscal year, casino taxes were down $33 million. The Indiana Gaming Commission says a little more than half of that was the result of a bankruptcy court ruling and disruptions from the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River. But the commission singles out increased competition from a new casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, as a major factor.

2012 saw the opening of the three Ohio casinos and one in Hartford, Michigan, while Illinois has given the green light for five new casinos. Commission executive director Ernest Yelton says the new competitors could make 2012 the final year of "relative calm...before the looming storm." But while he says Indiana will unquestionably take a hit from the new competitors, he says it's all but impossible to say how big that hit will be.

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