Thursday, October 2, 2003

Survey: Gamblers ramble in region



By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - Ohio and Kentucky residents made millions of trips last year to casinos in other states, a survey from one of the nation's leading gambling companies shows.

The survey by Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc., a part owner of the Turfway Park thoroughbred racetrack, comes as both states are considering legalizing casino gambling. Harrah's spokesman Brent Burkhardt said the timing of the survey is coincidental.

But Harrah's used its release of the report to push for casinos in Kentucky and Ohio, where thoroughbred racing interests want video slots and other gaming devices legalized at racetracks to compete with casinos in Indiana, West Virginia and Illinois and other states.

"A large number of Kentucky citizens as well as residents in surrounding states partake in casino entertainment and would enjoy playing at a gaming destination closer to where they live," said Harrah's president and chief executive officer Gary Loveman. "Gambling dollars, along with hotel and entertainment spending, are flowing to other states, when they could be boosting tax revenue, jobs and capital investment in Kentucky."

Kentucky lawmakers may vote next year to put the issue on the ballot. Surveys by the Kentucky thoroughbred industry show casinos would generate as much as $400 million a year in new tax revenue for a state facing a 2004 budget deficit of an estimated $600 million.

And though a bill legalizing gambling at racetracks died without a vote in the Ohio General Assembly this year, lawmakers are talking about reviving the measure to raise badly needed revenue.

According to the survey:

• 505,000 Kentuckians made 2.2 million trips to casinos in 2003, with 72 percent of the trips to casinos in southern Indiana and Illinois.

• Nearly 1.6 million Ohio residents made 4.87 million trips to casinos in 2003, with top destinations Illinois and southern Indiana (27 percent) and the Detroit/Windsor, Ontario, region (20 percent). A total of 432,000 Cincinnati-area residents made 2.4 million of those trips.

Turfway Park President Bob Elliston said the survey "obviously shows that Kentuckians are taking their money out of the state when we need it to stay here."

Harrah's survey is based on three nationwide studies that used questionnaires and interviews to learn the gambling habits of nearly 70,000 adults across the country. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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