In Illinois as well as many other corners of this country, talk of opening casinos or legalizing gambling always seems to arise when states are at a budget impasse. And honestly, it’s a wonder more casinos don’t dot the landscape of this country.

Here in Lake County, the Horseshoe Hammond employs about 1500 people, and the Ameristar in East Chicago has just under 1100 employees. For a county of 490,000 (about 75% of which are 18 and older, or working age), that doesn’t put a huge dent in the total employment figures, not to mention the possibility that surely some workers might be from surrounding counties in Illinois or Indiana. Still, casino jobs are highly in demand in the area, and are certainly a benefit for those who hold them.

The real impact is in taxes, however. Indiana casinos pay two types of taxes. The larger wagering tax is split, with 75 percent going to the state and 25 percent to the host city. The other, admissions tax, is split three ways: for every dollar going to the state, another dollar goes to the county and to the host city.

According to the Casino Association of Indiana, the state received over $685 million in wager tax and $66.7 million in admissions tax last year. And that’s actually down from peaks of nearly $800 million in wagering tax and over $80 million admissions tax before the Great Recession. Even after you subtract the local taxes, that’s a pretty good chunk of the estimated $15.7 billion in tax revenue collected by the state in 2013.

It would still be a pretty big chunk if a smaller piece went to the state, and local communities got to keep more. I mean, I’m sure Hammond isn’t complaining about the $36 million it rakes in from the casinos each year. Still, counties in Indiana have to pay for certain services with local taxes, do why can’t they raise more revenue for themselves?

 I realize gambling is a special case with heavy oversight and regulation. But it raises an interesting question: how much does Lake County Pay in taxes, and what does the state give us in return?

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