Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Not worth the gamble

AS THE Blade noted in a July 11 editorial, "A game of Ohio hold-up," the State of Ohio is currently under threat from tribal land claims. These tribes are taking gambling off reservations and into our local communities and hoping to build on the success of 400 tribal casinos in 30 states.

In this practice, commonly referred to as "reservation shopping," tribes are looking to acquire new, non-contiguous land to open casinos near large communities or next to major roads with easy access.

I agree with The Blade. States should be able to decide whether legalized gambling will be allowed within their borders.

Why I am opposed to the prospect of Indian casinos in Ohio is simple. The issue is really about families.

Back when I was a state representative and just beginning my career in government, I was asked how I would confront the problems of Ohio if I had a magic wand.

My answer then was the same as it is now: I would use it to reconstitute and protect the family, which is the foundation of this country and the reason why most of us get up in the morning, go to work, and hurry to get home at the end of the day.

In the late 1980s, when I was mayor of Cleveland, the first attack against our families was mounted by the backers of what studies call the "crack cocaine" of gambling: casino gambling. Voters fought back at the polls in 1990, defeating the issue, but it wasn't long before it surfaced in Ohio again.

In 1996, as governor of Ohio, I was proud to lead a coalition of some 130 organizations, dozens of elected officials, and thousands of individual citizens, in defeating State Issue 1 - the second ballot initiative that would have legalized casino gambling.

So here we are in 2005 and it's dj vu all over again. It's a new millennium, but the same forces are back. This time they are joined by the Shawnee tribe. They have regrouped and reappeared in different disguises.

I recognize that many people believe that casino gambling will be the answer to Ohio's economic woes.

However, they are ignoring the fact that gambling leads to spikes in violent crime, embezzlement, and fraud. Bankruptcy rates in casino counties around the U.S. are 18 percent to 35 percent higher than in casino-free counties.

Divorce and suicide rates are higher for addicted gamblers than non-gamblers. Casinos are most destructive to those citizens least able to cope with financial loss. National statistics underscore that every tax dollar that comes from casino gambling results in $3 in social welfare costs.

These are lousy odds when compared to the cost of tax dollars from other things the people would do with their money.

Studies show that a casino within 10 miles of a home yields a 90 percent increased risk of a citizen becoming a problem or pathological gambler. These would be Ohioans - us, our neighbors and families. Money that would have gone for a new coat, a better car, a trip to the dentist, or rent, would end up in the casinos.

As a United States senator, I continue my opposition to gambling in Ohio and will work to protect the state from these outside groups.

George Voinovich is a United States senator from Ohio.

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