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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

Gaming rules, revision

THERE is enough common ground in sound proposals offered in both houses of the Ohio General Assembly for lawmakers to agree on rules governing newly established casino gambling in the state.

Differences over earmarking licensing fees for jobs programs and mandating diversity requirements among contractors and employees may need to be resolved with additional rules. But it appears lawmakers are on track to approve an acceptable framework for casinos scheduled to open in 2012 and 2013.

Unlike Detroit casinos, which were exempted from a new state ban on smoking, gamblers at new casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati won't be able to smoke on casino floors.

In addition, booze won't flow 24/7, as casino operators wanted, but rather will be served during the hours currently allowed under state law. That means no alcohol after 2:30 a.m. and no freebies at any time.

Nobody under 21 can gamble. Slot winnings will be paid in chips, not coins. The average payout percentage - at least 85 cents on every dollar - is in line with minimums in other states.

The gambling industry in Ohio will be overseen by a new commission appointed by the governor. Its seven members will serve four-year terms at a part-time salary of $60,000 a year. They will have specific powers and guidelines to monitor spending, license fees, and other casino regulation.

Many of these provisions were in the constitutional amendment voters approved last year to allow gambling. The deal also required lawmakers to adopt rules by June 3 under which the casinos would operate.

There is still time to reach a compromise on key remaining differences between the chambers, by building on a common foundation that is solid yet subject to further review.

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