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Published: 3/23/2005

Gambling foes gird for new fight against casinos

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Gambling opponents yesterday launched a pre-emptive strike against tomorrow's summit of gaming interests by vowing to counter predictions of casino-related jobs and tax dollars with images of broken families and empty promises.

"Maybe it's three strikes and you're out, and we're done with it," said U.S. Sen. George Voinovich. The Cleveland Republican was referring to his involvement in rejections of gambling ballot initiatives in 1990 and 1996.

The former governor joined Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, the American Policy Roundtable, and representatives of communities such as Sandusky that the Eastern Shawnee Indian tribe are considering for casinos.

The mayors of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Lorain, supporters of casino gambling, were invited to a private summit tomorrow in Columbus. The summit will include lawmakers, representatives of the Eastern Shawnee tribe, casino developers, horse tracks, and fraternal organizations.

"For so long, these various folks have shared a common interest in having some form of gaming, but they've worked at cross purposes," said Rep. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), the summit's organizer. "It's been roughly 10 years since any plan reached the voters, which is where, I think, ultimately the decision lies."

He said he doesn't expect the groups to reach an accord in one meeting. But he added the groups have to talk since at least one will likely present a proposal that, with or without the General Assembly's help, will be on the ballot.

The petition proposes a constitutional amendment to allow cities of at least 50,000 population, or counties that host at least 1 million tourists annually, or communities that have racetracks, such as Toledo's Raceway Park, the local option of casino-style gaming.

"Casinos are not good for families and they are bad for family entertainment," said John Adams, senior pastor of New Life Church in Sandusky.

"Most of us may remember that Las Vegas tried to become family-friendly and have all kinds of things for kiddies, but they found out it didn't work," he said. "Now their slogan is, 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.' Family doesn't sell in Las Vegas. Sleaze does."

Opponents challenge gaming industry projections of revenue casinos could generate.

Anti-gambling forces contend that if Ohioans who visit Detroit or Windsor casinos, West Virginia racetracks, or Indiana riverboats stayed home to gamble, Ohio could expect $300 million in tax revenue, the equivalent of 1.2 percent of the state's annual budget.

Terry Casey, political consultant for the Eastern Shawnee tribe, said revenues ultimately will depend on how many casinos are developed, their location, and the type of gaming.

"Definitely, $300 million to state and local governments from 10 locations is extremely low compared to what the 10 facilities in Indiana are averaging, which is $910 million," he said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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