Lottery sales and Bingo revenue fell in Ohio counties nearest out-of-state casinos, raising concerns about the economic impact of such casinos coming to Ohio, according to a newspaper analysis.
Public and private schools, animal protection groups, firefighters, the Roman Catholic church and other charitable groups benefit from about $600 million in Ohio Lottery profits and up to $90 million from bingo yearly.
Supporters have estimated the state could get $500 million from allowing slot machines at racetracks, but that doesn't include the effect on existing legalized gambling on Ohio.
In the five years after casinos opened in West Virginia and Indiana in the mid-1990s, lottery sales dropped by 16 percent in Ohio counties within a 30-minute drive, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Thursday. In counties more than 90 minutes away, lottery sales declined by an average 7 percent.
From 2000 to 2002, the only years for which data were available, bingo sales dropped by 11 percent in counties closest to the casinos, compared with 6 percent in Ohio's interior.
Even counties along the Michigan border, about an hour's drive from Detroit casinos, showed some drop, according to data reported to the Ohio attorney general.
Casino gambling backers on Wednesday began a petition drive for a statewide ballot question on allowing cities to decide to allow casinos. Indian tribes, racetrack owners and some lawmakers are also seeking to put the issue on the November ballot.
Gov. Bob Taft opposes casino gambling, and Ohio voters have twice rejected casino issues since 1990.
Aquinas Central Catholic School in Steubenville, along the Ohio River between two West Virginia casinos, stopped bingo in June after nearly 20 years. The school with 227 students made nearly $84,000 from bingo in 2000.
"We saw a drop-off in attendance. Fewer and fewer people were coming, and it was more work than what we were getting in return," Principal Victoria Nurczyk said. The school raised tuition and started other fundraising efforts.
At a bingo night for band boosters in the Akron suburb of Barberton, Clara Ferguson, 66, said she spends up to $500 a week gambling. She said she'd prefer full Las Vegas-style games in Ohio, not just slot machines and "that itty-bitty stuff."
"I want something you could drive to within an hour," she said.
But boosters treasurer Ann Gerbec said she's not worried. "A lot of the people go out of state, but we always have the regulars."
Nearly half of bingo profits in 2002 went to Catholic schools and churches.
Mary Anne Sharkey, a Catholic and a lobbyist for American Indian tribes interested in building casinos in Ohio, said interest groups can't dictate where the state's gambling revenues would go, but "it would be nice to see that some of the relief be given to help support the parochial-school system."
Ohio Lottery Commission director Tom Hayes said he's not concerned about casinos.
"It's not currently part of state law, and a great deal has to happen before it becomes a reality in Ohio," he said. "Obviously, there will be an impact, but we can't spend our time thinking about it. We will always have customers."