Casino Money Serves Public

Published October 22, 2003 by OCR Editor

Casino Money Serves Public

The Caesars Indiana riverboat casino has played an important role in promoting the well-being of many aspects of life in Harrison County and its environs. Supporters of a proposed casino in Orange County envision the same kind of contributions will enhanc

Gambling opponents believe the risk of increased crime, bankruptcy, gambling addiction and family stresses would outweigh the benefits a casino can bring. Citizens, in a Nov. 4 referendum, will decide whether the casino is a go. In the five years since Caesars opened, it has paid more than $100 million in direct taxes to Harrison County. The county shares 16 percent of its riverboat funds with Crawford, Floyd and Washington counties (which border Harrison) and with local municipalities. A document prepared for the Indiana Gaming Commission to review in considering Caesars five-year license renewal reports an amount of $15,687,868 was distributed to the adjoining counties. In addition to the 16 percent, another 2 percent of the funds each year are divided among the towns in Harrison County for infrastructure.

A portion of the Caesars tax money that is kept in Harrison County is dedicated to education. In remarks made to school board members in Orange County earlier this year, North Harrison schools superintendent Monte Schneider said 17 percent of casino money is earmarked to education in the county, where there are three public school systems. The money is funneled through the county government.

Orange County officials also decided to help school systems cut their debt service funds. Also, Schneider said his school system has received about $314,000 in scholarships. In addition to the local taxes Caesars has paid, another $49 million in voluntary contributions from the gambling site has benefited Harrison and Floyd counties. That includes about $35 million paid to community foundations in the two counties. The five-year, license-renewal document reports that through June 30, the Harrison County Community Foundation had distributed $5,286,027 while the Caesars Riverboat Casino Foundation, Inc. had distributed $1,727,448.

While the numbers illustrate Caesar's spending in five years, not everyone is convinced the gambling site is an asset to the county. One of the more outspoken critics has been Earl Becker, 54, of Elizabeth whose opposition to the construction of Caesars focused largely on where it was built. Becker maintains the chosen site, a flood-plain area known as Bridgeport, was not as suitable as a location farther west on the Ohio River at Mauckport. The Mauckport site, Becker said, had a lot of superiority as a project site, and there are a lot of environmental negatives associated with Bridgeport. Becker also suggested a casino does not create wealth, but redistributes it.

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