PROMOTERS of legalized gambling in Ohio are a tenacious lot, so it is encouraging to see those opposed to this perverse form of economic development again out front opposing the issue.
Sen. George Voinovich came in from Washington the other day to join with Attorney General Jim Petro and community leaders who want to head off a state ballot issue that would allow casino gaming.
Their meeting was a counterpoint to a private conference in Columbus of gambling promoters, pro-gambling legislators, and interest groups looking toward a ballot issue.
Ohio voters rejected legalized gambling in 1990 and 1996, but Senator Voinovich correctly pointed out that pre-emptive action is necessary against the gambling industry and what he called its "well-meaning" allies at the local and state levels who see wagering revenue as a savior in the current hard economic times.
As we have long argued, gambling is a glittering but illusory fix for budget problems that ought to be solved by creative methods rather than copouts that leave host communities grappling with crime and other social ills.
Among gambling proponents is the Eastern Shawnee tribe of Native Americans, which has been promoting the idea of tribe-run casinos at various locations, including Sandusky; Monroe, north of Cincinnati, and Botkins in Shelby County.
The Shawnee, who apparently believe they can win the right to establish casinos via negotiations with the federal government, have had public-relations operatives massaging the media for months. Other developers, meanwhile, have succeeded in drumming up substantial support among officials in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Lorain.
Both factions, however, would find their path clearer if voters were to approve a ballot issue. That effort hit a snag this week as Mr. Petro's office rejected proposed language for a constitutional amendment to allow casino-style gaming as a local option for cities of at least 50,000, counties with at least 1 million tourists annually, and communities with racetracks like Toledo's Raceway Park.
As in the past, rosy estimates of revenue are being floated that allegedly would benefit financially troubled state and local governments. Terry Casey, the political rainmaker for the Shawnee, says that Indiana is taking in more than $900 million a year from 10 casinos.
Seldom pointed out by the advocates are the negative aspects of gambling that government must contend with - more crime, bankruptcy, divorce, and a new crop of addicted wagerers who hurt themselves and their families when they throw good money after bad at the gaming tables.
As John Adams, senior pastor of New Life Church in Sandusky, put it, "Casinos are not good for families and they are bad for family entertainment."
By now, Ohioans are well-acquainted with the problems associated with gambling and we have faith that they will make the right choice if the issue comes to a vote. But it's never too early to get the message out and see that it sticks.
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