By Martin J. Kidston
The states gambling industry is alive and well across the state and supplies cities big and small with a healthy portion of revenue, the Gaming Industry Association of Montana said recently.
According to the industry, video gaming operators have dumped nearly $300 million in taxes into the state since 1989, the year Montana authorized its current gambling tax policy.
In fiscal year 1999, the industry reported that the state received $12.7 million in taxes provided by gambling machines, and another $25.3 million in income taxes off those machines. In all, $38 million was provided to the state during the 1999 fiscal year, giving the gaming industry a strong showing among state revenue leaders.
The money provided by gaming machines goes to the governments general fund, which pays for a variety of services, the industry said.
From small gas stations to large casinos to restaurants, video keno and poker are seemingly everywhere these days, and many cities in Montana, if not the state of Montana itself, depend on the revenue they provide.
Havre is one of them.
Gaming is a big part of the citys budget, said Havre City Clerk and Recorder Lowell Swenson. Its important to us, since taxes are frozen and we havent been able to raise them.
The gaming industry reported that Havre received $466,900 in revenue from taxes paid on gambling machine income. The money accounted for roughly 18 percent of the citys general fund budget.
In fact, Swenson said, gambling is second only to taxes in providing the city with revenue. He said that taxes make up 30 percent of the citys revenue, while gambling isnt far behind, amounting to nearly 20 percent of the citys general fund budget.
Gambling provides the largest share of our general fund next to taxes, Swenson said. And its gone up from the last fiscal year.
The gaming industry said Havre made $22,200 more in 98-99 than it did in the previous fiscal year.
Figures released by the Department of Justices Gambling Control Division, according to the gaming industry, show that video gambling has grown 3.6 percent statewide since 1998.
And while the state benefits from the industry, so, too, does Havre. Swenson said the money from gaming is handled through the Department of Justice.
We receive 10 percent of the gross gambling revenue from within the city limits, and the state keeps five percent for administration costs, Swenson said. The state sends us a check for our share.