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Published: Thursday, 10/1/2009

Gambling on jobs

CASINOS profit by dangling treasure just out of the reach of people who believe the next flip of a card, spin of the wheel, or coin in a slot is bound to be a winner. It's not by mistake, therefore, that backers of a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in Ohio are dangling the promise of thousands of jobs before jobs-starved voters.

But voters going to the polls Nov. 3 must also remember the old adage: The house always wins. They must ask themselves whether the jobs payoff promised by gambling supporters is a gold mine or merely fools' gold.

With the state's unemployment rate at more than 10 percent, Ohioans desperate for jobs said in a recent Blade/Ohio Newspaper Poll that they favored approving Issue 3, which would allow out-of-state gambling interests to build casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

Backers of Issue 3 claim that casinos will create more than 34,000 jobs in Ohio, but they don't say what kind of jobs they will be.

According to a University of Cincinnati study commissioned by casino backers themselves, more than half the jobs will be temporary construction work, lasting no more than a year. Of the rest, 7,500 will be direct jobs in the casinos and the rest will be an unknown number of jobs created indirectly by the casinos.

Casino backers claim not to know how many of the permanent jobs will be part time, but since the most common permanent jobs will be in food preparation - can you say burger flipper? - experience leaves little doubt that part-time jobs with few or no benefits will dominate.

Of the casino jobs, at least 10 percent will not be filled by Ohioans, including, we suspect, all of the better-paying management positions. Some 40 percent of the jobs won't require more than a high school diploma, but while you can bet those low-paying jobs will go to local people in the four metropolitan areas, future economic security can only be built on full-time, good-paying jobs.

And none of this takes into account the number of jobs that will be lost. Wherever casinos open, businesses in the area suffer and often close. That's because people who go to casinos are less likely to patronize other local businesses. While a family taking in a Mud Hens game often makes a day of it, visiting the Toledo Zoo or Imagination Station, doing a little shopping, and eating at a local restaurant before or after the game, gamblers seldom leave the casino. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of local jobs could be lost.

In addition, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Ohio State Racing Commission says that five of the state's seven horse-racing tracks would likely not survive competition from casino gambling, resulting in thousands of jobs disappearing from tracks and the broader horse industry in Ohio.

That could result in a net job loss across the state from the introduction of casino gambling.

Yes, casinos will create jobs, but what kind and at what cost? Are those the sort of jobs Ohioans will want to bet their future on? We think not, and on Nov. 3 we believe Ohio will once again say "No" to gambling.



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