The mayor of Dayton says the state needs to act soon to get the city a $500,000 racino payment it’s owed by law. The money got hung up at the very end of the recent lame-duck session, when Governor John Kasich vetoed a line-item amendment to a bill that resolved a long-standing dispute over the money.
The city is supposed to get the half-million dollars annually for the new Hollywood Gaming racetrack and casino based on a 2011 law, but the law was written in a vague way that failed to specify who would make the payments, or how many years of annual payments it would include.
Penn National, the company that owns Hollywood Gaming, has been battling it out with the state of Ohio as both parties point squarely at the other and refuse to make even part of the payments. An amendment passed by the Ohio House and Senate would have split it 50/50, but the governor’s office vetoed that—saying, again, that Penn National should make the payment in full. Penn National says it is already paying tens of millions into a general racino fund, and that the additional payments amount to a special tax on top of that.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says she doesn’t care where the money comes from—the bottom line for her is that the end of the 2014 legislative session is costing the city millions.
“We’ve come out of lame duck and gotten really, really hit hard,” she said, referring not just to the loss of the racino payment but to the governor’s signing of House Bill 5, which may make it harder and more costly for the city to collect local income taxes. Those regulations won’t kick in until 2016, but she expects the traffic camera restrictions to cost Dayton $1.5 million this year.
The governor’s office maintains it believes Penn National should make the racino payment in full, and did not provide specifics as to actions it might take in the new year to help Dayton get the money.
Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.