Ohio communities that host a racino will get $1 million in each of the first two years, and possibly $500,000 a year afterward, thanks to a bill the House and Senate approved, which is awaiting the governor’s signature.
That’s big money for a village like Northfield, where Northfield Park has plans to partner with Hard Rock International on a $275 million video slots and entertainment complex.
“My annual budget is $4.6 million,” Northfield Mayor Jesse Nehez said, so $1 million would be a windfall.
The state requires half of the $1 million to be spent on infrastructure, and Nehez said that’s fine with him.
“We have a ton of roads that need to be done in this town,” he said. “More than half the town needs a new road.”
Even though the racino isn’t a done deal, Nehez said his staff has chatted about how they might spend the other half of the money.
“We might use the other $500,000 for fire and safety,” he said, “but we haven’t made plans yet.”
Under House Bill 386, which included several casino-related measures, six of the seven communities making plans to host a racino — a combination of a horse track and a video slot-machine facility — would get $1 million each in each of the first two years from the Casino Operator Settlement Fund and $500,000 a year after that if a future agreement is worked out between the state and racino owners.
The deal excludes Columbus, where Scioto Downs is set to open its slot machines today, because that city already is in line to receive millions of dollars a year from a casino expected to open this fall.
Northfield’s racino dreams have been on hold because of a lawsuit brought by gambling opponents, but that lawsuit was dismissed this week by a Franklin County Common Pleas judge.
“That’s a huge step forward for us,” Nehez said. “I’m excited.”
While officials are still waiting for developers to announce they’re ready to proceed — the court ruling can be appealed — the village is making plans of its own. It hired a consultant to advise on zoning and other issues to help development of the racino property go smoothly.
“This is going to be an overnight transformation for us,” Nehez. “We want to be ready.”