Cleveland Alderpeople Want Control Of Ohio Casino Tax Dollars

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on January 25, 2023
Council members in Cleveland want more Ohio casino tax revenue

Cleveland City Council members and Mayor Justin Bibb‘s finance chief Ahmed Abonamah met on Monday to discuss a council proposal. A proposal that allows the council to decide how to spend Ohio casino tax revenues.

Ward 5 Councilman Richard Starr introduced the proposal earlier this month.

Starr wants Ohio casino tax revenue split 50/50

Cleveland City Council has received 15% since the inception of Ohio casino taxes in 2011. The remaining 85% went to the general fund for the administration to spend.

Council members then split the council’s share evenly among the city’s 17 districts. Individual members could also spend their division’s share as they saw fit.

According to council records, the council’s 15% share for 2022 was $1,983,600.

From now on, Starr demands council members and the administration receive equal shares. As Cleveland.com reports, chief finance officer Ahmed Abonamah said Starr proposed splitting the proceeds 50-50.

A change that would provide the council with an increase of roughly $5 million. Council members said they use the money “to get things done for residents when City Hall and the mayor fails to provide.”

While several council members favored Starr’s idea, Abonamah claimed that city finances were already tight. He also thinks removing that kind of sum from the general fund in 2023 would demand “painful cuts” from “everyday city services.”

Some council members strongly disagreed. They said Ohio casino revenues were one of their few sources of discretionary funds. Funds the council could spend addressing problems in their neighborhoods.

For example, Ward 3′s Kerry McCormack said he used some of his casino money to facilitate brick street repairs that otherwise wouldn’t have been done. Likewise, Ward 7 Councilwoman, Stephanie Howse, said she used her casino funds too.

She did it to buy commercial goods for her recreation center because city administrators allegedly failed to do so.

Alderpeople concerned chief finance officer’s figures might be misleading

Other council’s concerns were that the figures Abonamah provided were misleading. He said, “council had been sitting on about $6.6 million of the $16.8 million it had received since 2012, or about 40%,” Cleveland.com reported.

Some council members called the figures into question, stating they were “flat-out wrong” and that council had likely approved much of that money. They blamed the administration for failing to cut checks or taking a long time.

Abonamah acknowledged that could be the case, as his numbers were not different from what the council had approved and what the administration had processed.

Abonamah later provided Cleveland.com with updated figures that accounted for the difference. He showed the council still needed to act on about $5.3 million, or about 32% of total council collections since 2012.

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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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