Ohio Lottery reports record profits

Ohio Lottery

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More people are gambling in Ohio as the lottery commission reports record profits for the eighth straight year.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, profits came in at $803 million. That’s up $32 million from the previous year.

Sales for traditional lottery games actually fell 1.4 percent, but the addition of Video Lottery Terminals at Ohio’s race tracks is credited with the overall jump.

Sales of Pick 3 and Pick 4 tickets, both big sellers, dropped 3.5 percent and 8.7 percent. Instant tickets, which account for more than half of sales, were down more than 5 percent.

However, sales of traditional lottery games were better than officials had projected.

Scioto Downs in Columbus turned into a racino at the start of the fiscal year, and Thistledown near Cleveland followed on April 9. The lottery, which collects a 33.3 percent tax on video slots revenue, received a total of more than $55 million from the tracks before June 30.

Five more tracks will add the slots terminals, and the lottery expects to receive $3 million a month from each location. New tracks are under construction in Austintown and the Dayton area and north of Cincinnati.

Tavern games Keno and EZPlay also helped boost lottery profits last year, officials said.

State officials have asked lottery Director Dennis Berg to draft a plan for keeping the lottery strong. He said he wouldn’t rule out joining the trend toward offering online casino games.

Money from the Ohio Lottery helps fund education across the state. In May, State Rep. Ronald Gerberry, D-Austintown, re-introduced legislation that calls for a portion of lottery profits to be distributed annually, on a per pupil basis, to public and chartered non-public schools.

House Bill 154 calls for the Lottery Profits Education Fund to be capped at its current level with all additional revenue generated during the biennium transferred to the State Lottery Gross Revenue Fund.  The State Lottery Gross Revenue Fund would then be distributed annually on a per pupil basis to public and chartered non-public schools.

This legislation will stop the ongoing “shell game” played with Ohio Lottery dollars and truly make lottery dollars additional revenue for education rater than dollars used to free up general fund dollars for other state related expenditures at the expense of education funding, according to a news release from Gerberry.

The legislation has been assigned to the state finance and appropriations committee.

In a related matter, schools in Ohio are due to get more than $45 million next month from casino tax revenue, according to figures released this week by the Ohio Department of Taxation. Figures show the $45.4 million estimated payment is a 19 percent increase from the first semi-annual distribution in January. The higher number reflects the March opening of the state’s fourth casino, in Cincinnati.

Since the distribution is based on head counts, the exact amount each school district will receive won’t be known until the new school year begins.

The new estimated payment compares with $38 million received by schools in January for the previous six months, according to The Columbus Dispatch, which reported the figures Friday.

The figures showed that $70.6 million went to the state from casino taxes in the quarter ending June 30. Cities, counties, the Ohio Racing Commission, a law-enforcement training fund, the Casino Control Commission and a problem-gambling and addiction fund all receive distributions.

Under the formula, 51 percent of tax proceeds is earmarked for counties, with 34 percent going to schools. The host cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati share 5 percent. The Casino Control Commission and the Racing Commission each get 3 percent, and the law-enforcement training fund and the problem-gambling programs each get 2 percent.

Since the first casino opened last year, $245.2 million has been collected from the gross casino tax.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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