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Published: 5/30/2009

Casinos in Ohio would bring jobs

BY JERRY CHABLER

AS A longtime subscriber to The Blade and reader of the Pages of Opinion, I wish to take this opportunity to offer a counterpoint to your recent editorial, "Gambling: No pot of gold."

While it is true the Ohio voters have rejected four separate gaming issues at elections in recent years, according to a recent Ohio Poll from the University of Cincinnati, some 60 percent of those surveyed favor expanded gaming in Ohio.

The previous issues were rejected because the voters didn't like the specific provisions of those issues. The Ohio Jobs and Growth plan, which would permit casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, is far superior to any of the previous ballot issues in terms of economic development, job creation, and fair distribution of casino taxes.

It is the right proposal at the right time.

While some segments of the casino industry have been hurt by our current economic malaise, well-run regional gaming companies such as Penn National have continued to operate profitably and continue to expand.

The Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan would have several important benefits for our state.

In terms of economic development, it will put casinos in or near the downtown areas of Ohio's four largest cities. The constitutional amendment mandates a minimum private investment of $250 million for each casino, for a total of $1 billion in new private investment.

As to employment, the proposal would create an estimated 20,000 new jobs, including construction jobs and permanent casino jobs when the facilities are in operation.

In terms of tax distribution, the casinos will pay a mandated 33 percent tax on gross casino revenues. According to a recent study by The Innovation Group, one of the country's largest casino and hospitality consulting firms, the four casinos will produce $651 million in gaming taxes in 2013, the first full year of operation.

That figure will increase to $771 million in 2017 as casino revenues grow.

The taxes will be distributed to all 88 counties, the state's eight largest cities, and to every school district in Ohio.

Slightly more than half, 51 percent, will be divided among the 88 counties according to population. In the counties that contain the eight largest cities, including Lucas County, half of the county's distribution will go to the largest city in the county, in our case Toledo.

School districts will divvy up 34 percent, according to student population, and the four host cities will divide an additional 5 percent of the total gaming revenue.

Toledo and Lucas County's share would be $12,797,148 a year, or $6,398,574 annually for each.

In addition, Toledo would receive a proportional share of $34.5 million a year designated for the four host cities. Lucas County school districts would split $8,708,401 annually, based on student population.

Each casino will pay a $50 million up-front fee to the state for a total of $200 million, which will be designated for the state's job-training program.

The proposal also includes funding for law enforcement training, treatment of problem gaming and other addictions, and for the Ohio State Racing Commission for the improvement of horse racing in Ohio, which at this point is an industry on life support.

The horse racing industry currently employs 16,000 people, which include track employees, horsemen, vendors, and suppliers. The economic impact for Ohio is just under $500 million a year.

It is estimated that approximately $970 million spent every year by Ohioans traveling to out-of-state casinos will remain in Ohio once the four new casinos are operating. In addition, an estimated 14 percent of the total revenue of the Ohio casinos would come from residents of other states patronizing our casinos.

Jim Rhodes, the late governor of Ohio, used to explain that our economy has three main parts: "jobs, jobs, jobs."

This is what the Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan is all about.

Jerry Chabler is a member of the Ohio State Racing Commission and is a director of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.



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