Eight casinos and racinos contributed more than $1 billion in revenue to Ohio’s economy last year and employed more than 7,000 workers.
Although those numbers might sound promising for a fledgling industry, the numbers fall far short of what was projected when voters opted to legalize gambling by a narrow margin in 2009.
In the first 12-month period (ending in March) that all four of the state’s casinos were open for business, they generated $839 million. That’s more than $1 billion less than what was predicted by advocates of the gambling industry leading up to that election.
Proponents say they simply need more time to establish and market the businesses, and the state’s seventh racino just opened in September southeast of Cleveland.
While the debate rages on about the pros and cons of gambling, produce industry sources say the casinos and racinos have been good for their bottom lines.
“We do business with the casinos and they absolutely help the produce companies in the area,” said Tom Sirna, president of Sirna and Sons Produce, Ravenna, Ohio. “Each casino has a huge buffet as well as multiple restaurants in them that all purchase produce as well as other items from the distributors.”
Anthony Arena, owner of Arena Produce, Columbus, said his company supplies the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, which has five restaurants.
“It’s a very good account for us,” he said.
Penn National also opened a Hollywood Casino in Toledo.
“The opportunity to partner with such a large company doesn’t come along very often,” said Shelly Okun, president of Sam Okun Produce Co. Inc., Toledo. “It has absolutely increased our business, and it has also given us the opportunity to be promoted by them, as working with the community is part of their mission.”