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Published: Saturday, 6/29/2002

For Blackwell's betterment

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has always been creative at self-promotion, but his new campaign to expose the evils of expanded, state-sanctioned gambling is a real stretch, considering how state-sanctioned gambling just expanded in Ohio.

“Those who encourage additional state-sanctioned gambling are, in effect, sponsoring a regressive tax paid largely by Ohio's low- and moderate-income families,” said Mr. Blackwell. True enough, but where was the Republican seeking re-election a few weeks ago when the state bet on joining a bigger and better multi-state lottery game to offset a ballooning state deficit?

Apparently to assuage the apprehension of gambling opponents after the state passed a law allowing Ohio to play for MegaMillions, lottery proponents came up with just the ticket. The lottery expansion law also created an eight-member Gambling Impact Committee to study the effects of legal and illegal gambling in the state. Nothing like putting the cart before the horse.

With the committee weeks behind schedule in releasing the results of its research, Secretary Blackwell jumped into the lurch to lecture on the well-documented pitfalls of addictive, ruinous gambling.

But an otherwise worthy campaign against gambling seeking pledges of support from officeholders, candidates, and citizens, can't help but seem more motivated by election year politics than genuine public concern.

The head of the Republican statewide ticket wholly embraced an expanded state lottery, and several GOP lawmakers as well as members of the gambling study committee itself are itching to put video lottery terminals at race-tracks.

While the committee grapples with the economic and social costs of expanded gambling options like video slot machines - with data largely supplied by the racing industry - Mr. Blackwell's call to action appears a bit belated and somewhat hollow.

Perhaps he reveals the true depth of his anti-gambling conviction when conceding that if other Republican candidates ignore his call to oppose gambling's curse and refuse to sign his pledge, his support of his GOP brethren will be just as strong.

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