Saturday, May 22, 1999

Gamblers from SW Ohio among casinos' big losers

Ind. riverboats rely on out-of-staters

The Associated Press

        INDIANAPOLIS — Average losses among Hoosier gamblers are swiftly increasing because of the rapid growth of the state's 3-year-old riverboat casino industry, but the highest losses are coming from residents of southwestern Ohio and Chicago.

        Preliminary findings of an Indiana University study indicate that Indiana residents gambled away an average of $136 last year, up 20 percent from 1997's average of $113. The study was sponsored by Gov. Frank O'Bannon's Indiana Gambling Impact Study Commission. The commission issued a draft report of the study on Thursday.

        All gamblers lost a combined $1.8 billion in Indiana last year, including about three-quarters of that amount at Indiana's riverboat casinos. The figure was calculated as the amount wagered minus the amount won.

        Indiana residents lost about $800 million. The state's riverboats rely on gamblers from Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky for most of their winnings, the study indicates.

        The study uses ZIP codes to show where the highest concentration of gamblers reside. State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the most surprising finding was that the heavi est losses were from residents of southwestern Ohio and Chicago.

        That means much of the $230 million in special gaming taxes paid by the riverboats last year came from those areas. Those revenues could evaporate if riverboats are approved in Chicago or Ohio.

        “All of those things could go away,” Mr. Kenley said of the revenue from out-of-state gamblers.

        The fact that much of the money being lost and fueling gaming taxes is from out of state should not come as any big surprise, said Alan Klineman, the former head of the Indiana Gaming Commission and now a member of the Gaming Impact Study Commission.

        After all, the state put four casinos on Lake Michigan near Chicago to attract those customers, as well as putting two casinos in Southeastern Indiana — a third is planned — to attract Cincinnati-area residents, he said.

        If neighboring states ever allowed casinos, the amount of money coming into Indiana would be jeopardized, he added.

        Already Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton has called for a state discussion on legalizing casinos in the state. One of the issues to be studied: How much money Kentuckians are leaving on the gambling boats in Indiana.

        Indiana's lottery, bingo, other charitable games and horse racing accounted for the rest of the losses. The university looked at only legal forms of gambling for the study.

        Ron Phillips of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling noted that the report doesn't examine the actual financial impact gambling has on Hoosiers. Compulsive gamblers lose much more money than casual bettors.

        “There's a relatively small percentage of folks who are losing that money,” he said.

        Michael Przybylski, who conducted the study for IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis, agreed that averages don't tell the full story.

        “With gambling, even more so than most things, few people are average,” Mr. Przybylski said after presenting the commission with the information.

        The ZIP code study, compiled from data collected on the riverboats, also shows that the heaviest concentration of Indiana gamblers live near the state's riverboat casinos.

        The study estimates people wagered a total of $18 billion in Indiana on the way to losing $1.8 billion.

        John Krauss, administrative director for the gambling impact commission, said those estimates in the preliminary study are conservative.

        According to reports by the Indiana Gaming Commission, which licenses and regulates casinos, riverboat gamblers bet $15.5 billion on slot machines alone last year.


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