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Competition blamed for drop in state’s casino revenue

– State government could see a big drop in casino tax revenue over the next two years because of competition from new Ohio casinos, state officials say.

The latest revenue forecast released this month projects that the state’s annual casino tax revenue will decline by about $42 million, or 9 percent, for the second year of the two-year state budget that legislators will decide on during their session that starts next month.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he didn’t believe Indiana’s casino revenue would ever return to the levels seen when little competition existed in neighboring states. He said state lawmakers should support measures that ensure Indiana’s casinos remain as competitive as possible, the Times of Munster reported Wednesday.

“I think it’s a question of whether we’re going to make changes that allow them to continue to be viable or whether we’re going to let the industry just die,” Kenley told the paper.

Indiana drew $496.5 million in tax revenue from its 13 casinos in the 2012 budget year. In 2008, when Illinois was the only adjacent state with casinos, Indiana’s casino revenue totaled nearly $583 million.

Ohio opened land-based casinos this year in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Another is scheduled to open this spring in Cincinnati, which is expected to drain gamblers and revenue from three nearby Indiana casinos along the Ohio River.

Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky also promise more competition.

Several tribal casinos have opened in southwest Michigan in the past few years, including Four Winds, just minutes from Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City.

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to allow casinos in downtown Chicago and its southern suburbs that could pull business from the Indiana casinos in Hammond, Gary and East Chicago.

And Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear wants to lift a constitutional ban on casino gambling in his state.

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