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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Not worth the gamble

As Ohio legislators concoct schemes to put 175,000 slot machines at the state's seven racetracks, and harbor sugarplum visions of gambling proceeds funding education and more, the Michigan experience exposes their folly.

There, a Marketing Resource Group survey revealed that fewer Michiganians are gambling, because in these tough times they can't afford it.

So much for ensuring state income during financial downswings.

The survey of 600 people, queried in 15-minute interviews, found that 53 percent of them hadn't bet on a horse, visited a casino, played bingo, or bought a lottery ticket over the past year. That's up from 43 percent last year, and greater than the previous high of 49 percent, in 1997, according to MRG, whose clients have included some Michigan casinos.

It also turns out that people were also bored with old-hat games of chance.

MRG, however, laid the greatest responsibility for disinterest on the economy, and that is critical as our legislators ponder Ohio's fiscal future. Either way, it behooves them to study their gambling initiatives before the state is undone by them, and to shrug off the hot breath of racing and gambling interests on their necks.

If gambling comes to Ohio, and we hope it doesn't, it will come very late, when it has lost its entertainment bloom. If former gamblers are kicking the habit because of hard times and boredom, how much revenue will the slots - among the oldest of gambling products - really generate?

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