Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Penn National: Promises kept

Two years ago, I worked hard to defeat the ballot proposal that aimed to bring casino gambling to Ohio, including Toledo. At the time, I had serious doubts that the Toledo casino would ever be built. I was not convinced that casinos had real potential to generate economic development.

Voters throughout the state, including those in Lucas County, felt otherwise. They approved the constitutional amendment authorizing four Ohio casinos by a large majority.

They were right. I was wrong.

Hollywood Casino Toledo is taking shape on a previously vacant parcel of land along the banks of the Maumee River. I am enthusiastic about the work Penn National Gaming, the company that is developing the casino, has done in our community, and about the economic benefits the casino will provide when it opens next year.

Since the vote on the casino proposal, former Gov. Ted Strickland appointed me to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, although the state Senate this year refused to confirm me for a full term. I also have become aware of -- and impressed with -- the progress and professionalism that Penn National is displaying.

Penn National has made a series of promises to Toledo about its investments here, the jobs it expects to create, the efforts it will make to include every part of our community in its project, and its commitment to be a strong corporate citizen. The company has kept every promise.

Penn National's leaders said they would use local companies to build the casino. They hired Toledo-based Rudolph/Libbe Inc. as the project's construction manager.

Local firms are doing the vast majority of work on the casino. Penn National has awarded $102 million in construction contracts for the casino, making it by far the largest construction project in Toledo in recent years.

Penn National said it would involve businesses owned by minorities and women in its project. It has given more than $23 million in construction contracts for the casino to minority firms.

Penn National promises that at least 90 percent of the casino's 1,200 permanent workers will be residents of metropolitan Toledo. The company has consistently reiterated that pledge.

Penn National promised the local hospitality industry that instead of building a hotel next to the casino on Miami Street, the company will work with local hotels to help them build their business. It has kept that promise.

Penn National already is delivering on its commitments to community causes and organizations -- something it is well known for everywhere it operates.

Penn National's performance since it arrived in Toledo is impossible to ignore. Those of us who spoke out or voted against Issue 3 must understand and acknowledge that the voters have settled this matter.

It is time to move forward. I hope all other Toledoans will join me as I embrace the opportunities the casino project presents: job creation, economic development for the Toledo area, and major new tax revenue for the city, Lucas County, and local schools.

And I predict that Penn National Gaming will become one of the best corporate citizens our area has seen in many years.

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

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