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Splitting the pot

Indiana counties reach revenue agreement
with Belterra Casino

Jefferson County uses
most of its money on roads

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(April 2007) – After a lengthy standoff with Belterra Casino Resort & Spa, several southern Indiana counties in March reached an agreement on revenue sharing that will continue to pour money into road and other improvement projects.
Jefferson, Ripley and Crawford counties negotiated the agreement in time to avoid a possible court battle over their share of casino profits.
Jefferson County Commissioners say they are pleased with the results because it means they can restart projects that had been stalled by lack of money.
“I’m glad we could reach an agreement that we can all be happy with,” said commission President Julie Berry.
Since 2002, Jefferson County, Ind., has received about $916,447 from a revenue sharing agreement with Belterra Casino, located in next-door Switzerland County. The majority of the revenue goes into a fund for road improvements, and the rest of the money is earmarked for economic development and historic preservation.
Berry said 80 percent of the money is used solely for paving and repairing roads, while 10 percent goes toward various historic projects and the other 10 percent is used for economic development through Madison-Jefferson County Economic Development Corp, or MIDCOR.
The dispute over payments began when the Indiana Gaming Commission allowed casinos to stay open 24 hours. Casino officials claimed that changed the original terms of the contract with the counties on revenue sharing. As a result, payments to the counties declined gradually from more than $585,000 in 2002 to less than $275,000 in 2006. Jefferson County’s share of that shrank from $292,716 in 2002 to $137,428 in 2006.
Under the new agreement, which becomes effective July 1, Belterra will pay the counties 0.257 percent of its adjusted gross receipts, with Belterra’s annual liability to the counties not to exceed $1 million.
There is also a special consideration in the event the casino’s adjusted gross receipts fall below $160 million for any calendar year. In that case, the following year, Belterra will pay the counties 0.17 percent of adjusted gross receipts in that year.
MIDCOR Executive Director Corey Murphy said the county has a contract-for-services agreement with the economic development organization. “We use the revenue sharing funds to market industrial properties for business and industry and help existing industry with retention and expansion.”
MIDCOR also has similar contract agreements with the City of Madison and the Town of Hanover.
County Commissioner Tom Pietrykowski said the money for historic preservation is placed into a fund, and it is dispersed for various projects approved by the commissioners. “We have specific guidelines that we have to follow when organizations ask for financial help.”
Some of the projects that have recently received revenue sharing funds include Girls Inc. for building needs and a renovation project on the caboose located outside the Jefferson County Historical Society.
“Both of these projects are tied to historic preservation, and they fit the criteria,” said Pietrykowski.
As for road paving or improvements, the commission try to repair the county’s roads in order of priority, tending to the worst problems first. He said that this year, in addition to the casino funds, Indiana’s Major Moves initiative, which involved selling toll roads, will contribute funds for road improvements. “We will be paving far more roads than we have in the past,” he said.
Berry said some of the past revenue in the road fund was used for the Ivy Tech Community College expansion. “It’s one of the rare exceptions to our rule for the use of those funds, but we felt it was important.”

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