Slot machines in Ohio
Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway opened Thursday with 1,010 operating slot machines, or video lottery terminals. That brings the total number of VLTs in Ohio to more than 17,000.
Venue … Slots … July slots revenue
Hard Rock, Northfield (racino) 2,267 $15,704,523
Hollywood Columbus (casino) 2,261 $11,821,176
Scioto Downs, Columbus (racino) 2,112 $11,785,276
Hollywood Toledo (casino) 2,045 $13,441,775
Horseshoe Cincinnati (casino) 1,928 $10,440,044
Horseshoe Cleveland (casino) 1,589 $9,742,734
Miami Valley Gaming (racino) 1,576 $10,906,008
Belterra Park, Cincinnati (racino) 1,436 $4,226,892
ThistleDown, Cleveland (racino) 1,151 $10,804,474
Hollywood Gaming, Dayton (racino) 1,010 N/A
Total 17,375 $98,872,902
Huge crowds punctuated a festive first day for Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, which took its place Thursday in a lineup of facilities that are keeping gambling money in Ohio.
Casinos and racinos in the state have reported $2.3 billion in winnings since they burst onto the scene two years ago with the backing of voters and politicians who promised big payouts for taxpayers.
About one-third of that revenue — more than $760 million — has been distributed to the state’s counties, cities, schools and other entities.
The revenue totals have fallen short of original projections, but there was nothing but optimism as a large ribbon was cut on the entertainment stage of Dayton’s racino shortly before the doors opened at about 12:30 p.m.
“It looks gorgeous,” Dayton mayor Nan Whaley said. “We’re just really pleased that this (Needmore Road) corridor is doing so well and really appreciate the investment that Penn Gaming has given to Dayton.”
Whaley was joined on stage by heavy-hitters from Penn National Gaming and baseball legend Mike Schmidt, who returned to his hometown as the racino’s “celebrity guest.”
Outside the front door, Cheryl Thomas of Dayton was first in line. The retired construction laborer arrived before 8 a.m. with a chair and bottle of water. Her gambling budget was $100 and she said the outing was a birthday present to herself.
“I really wanted to be first,” she said. “They gave me a T-shirt; I was glad to get that. I’ve been sitting here playing Candy Crush and texting everybody.”
Thomas said it was her first trip to a racino or casino.
“I was holding out for this one,” she said. “It’s a lot closer because I live in Dayton.”
‘Got it right’
That’s the kind of approach racino operators hope is adopted by many local residents.
“If folks are going to go somewhere (to gamble) we’d like to keep them close,” Hollywood Gaming general manager Gary DeWitt said. “Let’s face it, the tax revenue stays in the state of Ohio and that’s pretty important. The Dayton market has responded very well so far and we think it will continue.”
When Penn National opens its Youngstown racino next month, it will bring to 11 the number of racinos and casinos in Ohio.
“Many states have come to the same conclusions that Ohio has, witnessing so many of their residents gambling in other states,” said Jay Snowden, Penn National Gaming Chief Operating Office. “Ultimately, I think Ohio is a model, similar to the state of Pennsylvania, a state that got it right, that thought about where the racinos and casinos should be located and has the right number based on the population.”
With 1,010 slot machines, Hollywood Gaming will be the smallest of the state’s racinos. Still, it expects 1 million visitors per year. Snowden said there is room to expand if business is brisk.
“We’re comfortable with 1,000, but we have a shelled-out space behind the wall here where we can add a couple hundred units if the demand warrants,” he said. “We think 1,000 is a good number to start with and we’ll see what the demand looks like.”
State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, said the number of gambling facilities in Ohio feels about right and doesn’t foresee expansion in the near future.
“It doesn’t indicate that there is an unmet demand,” he said of the current landscape. “If they were busting expectations month after month and places were packed all the time, maybe you’d take a look at (expansion). We seem to have a nice, diverse geographical spread across the state.”
Snowden thinks Ohio could turn into a $2 billion market once its gambling properties mature. In 2013, the state’s casinos and racinos brought in a combined $1.07 billion in gross revenue, defined by the Office of Budget and Management as money remaining after prize payouts.
The Ohio Department of Taxation estimated in 2009 that annual gross revenue from just the four casinos — if horse tracks were allowed to operate slot machines — would be $1.42 billion.
That estimate was modifield in May 2011 by Spectrum Gaming, a research firm hired by the state. Taking into account the presence of racinos, Spectrum estimated gross casino revenue at about $1.1 billion.
Both projections significantly overestimated the casinos’ popularity. Last year, the four casinos totaled $821 million in gross revenue.
“The actual experience of Ohio casinos suggests that the parameters used in the early application of these models overstated the potential revenues of Ohio casinos,” a state report said, citing possible reasons for the shortfall, including “greater in-state racino competition that predicted.”
The report went on to say that “… more accurate forecasts will probably not emerge until 2016, when all casinos and racino facilities in Ohio have been operating for at least two years.”
For now, Hollywood Gaming is off to a fast start, and the Oct. 3 debut of harness racing on the grounds of a long-closed brake plant will add to its bottom line. The facility employs about 500.
“We understand that the Delphi plant was here before and we look at it as new growth,” DeWitt said. “Everyone’s working hard to keep the economy going here and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of that revival in the Dayton area.”