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Published: Thursday, 10/19/2006

Big-city mayors divided over slots

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The mayors of Ohio's biggest cities are weighing in with where they stand on a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing up to 31,500 slot machines in the state.

With the promise of slot parlors and the potential for full-fledged casinos at two prime downtown locations, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has placed his bets with Issue 3.

So has Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin.

But Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, with no proposed casinos in his city's center, yesterday bet against the slots-for-scholarships issue, predicting the "sucking sound" of tourism dollars and jobs leaving his city.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has generally spoken favorably of slots while pushing for a downtown waterfront site that is not part of Issue 3. He has not endorsed or opposed the Nov. 7 ballot issue, despite repeated queries from The Blade.

The proposed constitutional amendment would place up to 3,500 machines each at Toledo's Raceway Park, six other racetracks, and two new facilities in downtown Cleveland.

Thirty percent of the machines' gross receipts would be earmarked for college scholarships while 15 percent would be divided among local governments, enhanced racing purses, gambling addiction services, and operation of a new gaming commission.

For Mr. Coleman, it doesn't matter that there would be a racetrack on the city's southern tip, Scioto Downs, as well as just over the border in Grove City, Beulah Park.

"I'm mayor of the city of Columbus," he said. "This isn't about Columbus versus Cleveland or anyplace else. This is bad for Columbus."

While not located in the city's arena district or near its convention center, slot parlors just inside and outside the city would benefit Columbus, said Issue 3 spokesman Ian James.

"Franklin County stands to gain $96.5 million a year, including $71 million for educational grants [for students], $18.9 million for the host county, and $3.8 million for the host municipality/township," he said. "The day after the AFL-CIO, the largest group of working men and women in Ohio, came out strongly and endorsed Issue 3, Mayor Coleman and Bob Taft stand together in opposition," said Mr. James.

While Governor Taft opposes Issue 3, he did not participate in yesterday's press conference with Mr. Coleman, a Democrat, and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican.

Mr. Voinovich, a former Cleveland mayor and Ohio governor, has been holding a series of press conferences across Ohio to fight Issue 3. Yesterday's event occurred even as a number of elected officials in the Cleveland area held a competing news conference to push the plan.

Predicting that Issue 3 would place Columbus at a competitive disadvantage, Mayor Coleman bristled at the fact that his city was not included in talks when the proposed constitutional amendment was crafted.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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