PERHAPS the most divisive issue facing voters in Tuesday's election will be whether to approve a constitutional amendment to give two out-of-state entities the exclusive right to build gambling casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.
If Ohio's economy were not in such bad shape, we would not be having this conversation. But we are because the state and, especially, the Toledo area are hurting for jobs and people are worried about cuts in basic services such as police protection. Still, voters must be reminded not to be duped by false promises. They should vote NO on Issue 3.
It's bad precedent and bad governance. Enshrining a business monopoly in the Ohio Constitution does violence to our most important state document and would take virtually all control of the gambling enterprise out of state and local hands.
What other business gets to determine its own tax rate and how much it will pay in fees? None. What other business gets to choose its own locations and operating hours, free of local control? None. What business should be allowed these advantages? None.
Issue 3 will not create 34,000 "new" jobs that will provide a secure future for Ohioans. More than half the promised jobs would be temporary construction work. Of the rest, most would be low-paying or part-time positions with no room for advancement. When and if the casinos open - in four years - the better-paying jobs in management and on the floor will be filled by people experienced in the gambling industry, not local unemployed auto workers.
The only group guaranteed to benefit long-term from a casino is the police. That's why police organizations, including the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, have been so quick to jump on Issue 3's bandwagon. But if in fact more police are needed, it would put a lie to the argument that casinos won't result in more crime.
The final total of jobs created - if four casinos are actually built; the amendment doesn't require it - may very well be smaller than the number of jobs lost when scores of small businesses are forced to close because their customers have been enticed to the gaming tables.
The lack of a guarantee that any casinos actually will be built is especially important in Toledo, where voters are being asked to believe that Penn National, one of the companies behind Issue 3, will build a casino to compete for gaming dollars with Toledo's Raceway Park, which it also owns. Why would a business harm one of its enterprises to profit in another? Maybe Penn National isn't really expecting to build the casino, but is only using the Toledo promise to get the issue passed.
As for other false promises, we wonder how long it would be before Toledo casino owners decide they must have a hotel on site because the location is isolated from downtown hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment.
There's an old saying about bars that the later the evening gets, the more attractive members of the opposite sex look. It's 2 a.m. in Toledo and Ohio's devastated economy and gambling is beginning to look pretty good to people desperate for hope of better times. But beware. Voters taken in by come-hither charm and soft promises will rue their decision in the cold morning light.
Four times in the past, Ohio voters have seen through the false promises and rejected plans to create gambling monopolies. This issue is just more of the same. Vote NO on Issue 3.
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