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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Odds are it's a bad idea

City Councilman Bob McCloskey should give up his perverse notion of legalizing casino gambling in Ohio, even though he had fun at such an enterprise in Michigan.

Despite its popularity elsewhere, and its understandable appeal to frustrated politicians looking for a way to fund government in a struggling economy, casino gambling will amount to yet another tax on the income of people in Ohio, including the people in his district.

It will encourage desperate people to gamble away the rent and mortgage money, as they try to win big for a car payment, when the truth of the matter is that in legalized gambling, the house, not the gambler, always prevails eventually.

It's true that Toledoans journey in substantial numbers to casinos in downtown Detroit and Windsor, Ont. Mr. McCloskey can't be blamed for wanting to keep some of that money here at home. But it's a specious argument at best, and not convincing.

The fact that a Toledo casino would have such competition 50 miles up the road would mean that payouts here would have to be substantial. That would in turn cut into profits and make the whole scheme less attractive in the first place to investors.

Gambling also contributes to social problems, as Mayor Jack Ford and Gov. Bob Taft have correctly pointed out. Among them are domestic violence and excessive alcohol use. Legalized gambling may offer a tax base some temporary benefits some politicians hunger for. But these are far outweighed by the downsides.

Legalized casino gambling is not, as Mr. McCloskey naively suggested, “just another entertainment option.” It is a dark hole down which neither Ohioans nor Toledoans can afford to travel.

And these sorry economic times offer no reason to forget all that. Legalized gambling won't fix what has forced too many companies to relocate or downsize.

Voters have soundly trounced efforts to bring casino gambling to Ohio, both in 1990 and 1996.

We can appreciate that the allure of casinos would catch Mr. McCloskey's eye. But government-sanctioned gambling is not economic salvation, and it only diverts attention from the larger problem.



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