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Panel: $650M In Untaxed Ohio Gambling Freebies Need Review

A legislative panel is questioning more than $650 million in untaxed freebies that Ohio casinos and racinos have distributed since the first legalized gambling establishment opened in March 2012.

In a strongly worded report being released Monday, the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering urges lawmakers to consider revoking tax exemptions the governor and Legislature granted, respectively, to casinos and racinos "to protect the interests of Ohio's schools, local government, and taxpayers."

State Sen. William Coley, the panel's chairman, said his office's analysis didn't bear out industry claims that offering free money to customers ultimately increases taxable income at Ohio gambling houses.

The committee also recommends temporarily giving the state casino commission authority over jackpot game Queen of Hearts while lawmakers work to streamline Ohio's complicated regulatory structure for gaming.