Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Ohio voters will see data on pluses of casinos

COLUMBUS Backers of Las Vegas-style casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus scored points yesterday by ensuring that voters will read about the purported financial benefits of the facilities on Nov. 3 before casting their ballots.

At the urging of lawyers for the casino financiers, the Ohio Ballot Board reversed position and reinserted language emphasizing that each of the four casinos would pay a $50 million licensing fee to the state for job training programs and would make a $250 million investment in their facilities.

Obviously, a casino could be built for less, but if this amendment were to pass, it would require that that s what has to be spent at a minimum, attorney Don McTigue said.

I noticed in one of the arguments submitted [by gambling opponents] that the casinos could operate in a tent. Well, it would have to be a pretty expensive tent at $250 million or a pretty expensive trailer.

Opponents of Issue 3 have argued that the amendment would authorize but not set a deadline for construction.

Nothing in Issue 3 requires these out-of-state casino owners to actually build a single casino. They could simply freeze the Ohio market to protect their casinos in neighboring states, reads an argument submitted to the board by the Vote No Casinos Committee.

Its co-chairmen are U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) and David Zanotti, president of the Ohio Roundtable.

The casino backers were dismayed last week when the ballot board tentatively dropped all references to the $1 billion total minimum investment from the language voters will see on Election Day or on absentee ballots.

For many voters, that summary may be what they base their decisions on unless they do preliminary research or read the actual constitutional amendment and written pro and con arguments that would be posted at the polling places.

Both sides typically fight over language, knowing that the choice of wording could sway voters either way.

Penn National Gaming Inc., owner of Toledo s Raceway Park, and Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, are behind the effort to win approval of 24-hour casinos with table games and as many as 5,000 slot machines each.

The proposed constitutional amendment would site Toledo s casino on 44 acres of reclaimed former industrial property on the riverfront abutting Rossford and I-75.

Issue 3 is separate from plans by Gov. Ted Strickland and lawmakers to introduce a total of 17,500 slot machines at Ohio s seven racetracks.

Counting on $933 million in slots revenue over the next two years to balance the budget, Mr. Strickland signed an order yesterday immediately implementing for 90 days operating rules approved by the Ohio Lottery Commission on Monday.

Among the rules is a controversial provision allowing 18-year-olds to play the slots at the race tracks.

Contact Jim Provance at:jprovance@theblade.comor 614-221-0496.

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