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Published: Wednesday, 10/28/2009

Issue 3 backers: Ohioans will fill 90% of jobs created by casinos

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The backers of proposed casinos in Toledo and three other cities pledged yesterday that 90 percent of all hires at their sites would be from the host cities and their surrounding communities.

Opponents of Issue 3, however, countered that, regardless of the promises, nothing in the language of the proposed constitutional amendment before voters on Tuesday would guarantee new jobs, let alone who fills them.

Penn National Gaming, owner of Toledo's Raceway Park, and Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, have long insisted most of the casino jobs would be filled locally. But yesterday's announcement marked the first time they've placed a specific number on it.

Mr. Gilbert handed a letter containing the pledge to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson at a pro-casino rally there, and similar letters are expected to be sent to Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

"A significant part of our proposal is the job creation our development will bring to the communities that will host the casinos," Mr. Gilbert wrote. "Maximizing that benefit relies heavily on the recruitment and hiring of local residents. We will also endeavor to make certain that our work force reflects the diversity of the community."

Mr. Gilbert and Penn National, citing a University of Cincinnati study that they funded, have estimated that the casinos would create 19,000 construction jobs and 15,000 permanent jobs. Penn National has predicted that Toledo's casino would employ 1,200 people.

The location of the Toledo casino as cited in the constitutional amendment would be on a 44-acre, former industrial site along the Maumee River abutting Rossford and I-75.

Opponent Truth PAC, primarily funded by Cleveland developer Jeffrey Jacobs and his West Virginia-based MTR Gaming Group, have aired television ads questioning the job estimates and predicting that most of the jobs would be filled by experienced casino workers from out of state.

"If this was such a priority, why did they not put it in the amendment?" asked Truth PAC spokesman Sandy Theis. "They showed their priorities in the amendment by writing themselves a sweetheart deal. The only independent study that evaluated Issue 3 concluded that this would not create jobs but would siphon jobs away from existing entertainment."

The Hiram College study she cited was commissioned by the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association, which opposes Issue 3.

Issue 3 backers have held a series of rallies this week in the proposed host cities as the days tick away before voters cast their ballots for the fifth time on whether casino-style gambling should be embraced by the state.

Both sides will hold rallies four miles apart at the same time today in Columbus.

The casino backers estimate that a 33 percent tax on their gross receipts after prize payouts would generate $651 million a year to be distributed among all counties, school districts, the eight largest cities, a state gambling regulatory panel, a state racing commission fund, state law enforcement training, and gambling addiction programs.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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