By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Indiana's five Ohio River gambling boats are set to beat last year's record-setting revenues hands down, and the state appears to be cleaning up.
Numbers released Monday by the Indiana Gaming Commission show that in the first six months of 2003, casinos continued to bring in more money and attract more visitors than ever before.
With half of the year gone, the five Ohio River boats have earned more than 50 percent of last year's combined $995 million combined total. But under a new tax structure, the state already has raked in $187.3 million in the first six months of the year, about 71 percent of last year's $264.1 million from the five boats.
The tax money is used to pay for improvements - including roads and schools - in counties where casinos are located.
As a condition of dockside gaming, which beginning in August allowed customers to come and go from boats when they please, taxes were imposed based on earnings rather than a flat percentage. But in the first year of operations, all 10 Indiana casinos brought in $96 million less than state officials anticipated.
"We did change (forecasts) some," said Bob Lain, the state's assistant director of taxes and revenue. "We had an issue in the beginning of the fiscal year with monthly targets."
Because the state had no experience with dockside gaming, he said it had no idea what to expect. But under new projections, the state "forecast $425.4 million, and we realized $430.7 million."
In the next fiscal year, casinos are expected to generate $550.7 million in taxes. That does not include revenue from the extended casino hours that now allow riverboats to stay open 24 hours a day. Lain said extra hours are expected to generate an estimated $10 million a year.
Monthly numbers show that all of the Ohio River gambling boats dipped from May to June. But all of the boats won far more than they did in June 2002. Win refers to the amount customers lose on slots and table games. It accounts for gross gambling revenues, the money a casino takes in before it pays salaries, taxes and other expenses.
The Argosy in Lawrenceburg is the state's most profitable casino. Located 30 miles from Cincinnati, it won $34.1 million in June, compared with $29 million in June 2002. It also brought in 299,210 visitors, about 50,000 more than a year ago.
Grand Victoria in Rising Sun, which has struggled with maintaining revenues since dockside gaming went into effect, won $11.9 million last month, about $1.8 million more than in June 2002. It also saw attendance rise by nearly 34,000 visitors, going from 96,000 in June 2002 to 129,972 last month.
Belterra in Florence won $10.6 million last month, compared with $9.3 million in June, 2002. It saw attendance figures climb by about 50,000 to 149,593.
Caesar's Indiana near Louisville won $22.5 million last month and $21.2 million in June 2002. Casino Aztar in Evansville won $11.9 million last month and $10.1 million in June 2002.
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