CASINO gambling, with its promised jackpots of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues, may look like the solution to Toledo and Ohio's employment and budget woes, but don't bet on it.
Penn National Gaming, the owner of Toledo's Raceway park, and Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, want a constitutional amendment that would allow them to build casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. They're dangling jobs and tax windfalls before hard-pressed voters and government officials in the hope that they'll forget their reservations and OK a gambling monopoly that the developers hope will make them huge profits. The Toledo casino would be built on 44 acres east of the Maumee River where Libbey-Owens-Ford and Pilkington North America once did business.
Last year, Penn National spent millions to prevent a competing casino developer from getting its own constitutional monopoly to build a gaming house in southwest Ohio. Enshrining a gambling monopoly in the state constitution is still a bad idea.
Unfortunately, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, some City Council members, and state Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills), perhaps dazzled by the prospect of easy riches, seem favorably disposed to the idea. Or maybe they actually believed Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers when he said that "Ohioans want to see casinos as part of urban renewal and revitalization of downtown areas."
But they're playing against long odds if they expect a casino to refill local coffers. The truth is that the promised casino jobs won't materialize for years and gambling is no longer the cash cow it once was. Just last week, New Jersey casino owner Trump Entertainment filed for bankruptcy protection, and several casinos in Las Vegas are in financial trouble.
People are gambling less with their paychecks these days but even if they weren't, Ohio voters know that legalizing casino gambling will only mean increased social problems such crime, prostitution, and gambling addiction. At the polls, Ohioans have repeatedly judged gambling to be evil. They won't be fooled by a weak economy into thinking it has suddenly become a virtue.
Ohio voters aren't for sale. That's a sure bet.