What’s a state legislator to do when he needs a quick payoff to fill a budget hole?
Roll the dice on more gambling in Ohio, of course.
Ohio lawmakers want to expand gambling in the state again, this time adding video poker at the seven “racino” racetrack slots parlors.
Video poker already is available at Ohio’s four casinos, including Toledo’s Hollywood Casino.
The racinos all already have “video lottery terminals,” which are like slot machines. This expansion would allow those machines to be programmed with video poker as well.
Once again, the expansion is touted as a way to plug a hole in the state budget — an $800 million gap in the $66.9 billion, two-year budget proposal by Gov. John Kasich.
Proponents promise the video-poker expansion will generate $12.5 million more in revenue for K-12 education.
We have heard this song before, and it rings hollow. These sorts of promises are almost never kept.
And it is highly unlikely that another gambling expansion can deliver the revenue these lawmakers are dangling before us in this case. Here’s why:
Declining revenues show that there are already too many options for gambling in Ohio. The market is saturated.
While racinos in Columbus, Dayton, Cleveland, and the Akron, Youngstown, and Cincinnati areas have drawn increasing revenue since opening in 2012, the casinos are showing a declining return.
The casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati have recorded 10 consecutive months of lower revenues than a year ago.
Ohio’s gamblers are tapped out.
Moreover, expanding gambling is a quick fix instead of the real budget discipline that the General Assembly desperately needs.
The immorality here is not gambling itself, it is the cynical fiction that gambling will balance our state budget or help Ohio’s kids.
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