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Columbus Officials Reluctant To Allocate Future Casino Proceeds

The four Ohio casinos that voters approved won't begin producing revenue for quite a while. But at least one city is already divvying up the future proceeds. That's Cincinnati. WOSU's Sam Hendren reports that in Columbus, city leaders are a bit more circumspect on how they'll use the money.

Without public input, and some say with closed door negotiations, the Cincinnati City Council has already made plans for how it will spend projected casino revenue, even though it won't be available until 2013.

In Columbus, there's reluctance among city officials to start allocating money before it's in hand. Revenue projections say the city could gain more than $20 million annually after the Columbus casino begins operating in 2012.

The worry at city hall, though, is the looming state budget deficit that's anywhere from $4 billion to $8 billion dollars. City Council spokesman John Ivanic says Columbus currently receives $40 million in state money. But that, he says, could change.

"Obviously the folks at the corner of Broad and High are looking at all options to remedy their budget situations and we do fear that that will have a negative impact on local budgets as well," Ivanic says. "So we need to look at any potential revenue stream from the casino in the light of budgets and monies coming in from the state of Ohio to the city of Columbus."

Cincinnati plans to allocate its casino revenue to the local development authority and various city functions and projects including a downtown streetcar line.

In Columbus there's been talk of bailing out the financially troubled Blue Jackets hockey team which is losing more than $10 million a year. It might be doable because the combined city and county casino revenue is pegged at about $32 million. But city officials are likely to be reluctant to enter into any such agreement as long as there's a state budget crisis on the horizon.