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Published: Sunday, 12/13/2009

Developers of casinos stick by sites


COLUMBUS - Developers of the casino that Ohio voters approved last month for Columbus say they looked at other sites before settling on 18 acres in the Arena District.

Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming Inc., said areas such as Westland Mall and the former Cooper Stadium were dismissed and won't be reconsidered.

Central Ohio legislators said last week that they hoped Penn National would consider building its casino somewhere else in Franklin County as a compromise with the majority of local voters who rejected the casino amendment.

If not, Republican state Sens. David Goodman of New Albany and Jim Hughes of Columbus said they will push for another statewide measure that would let anti-casino counties opt out of casino requirements.

Ohio voters backed the issue to allow casinos at specific sites in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo.

The Toledo location is a reclaimed former industrial site along Miami Street between Rossford and I-75. It needs to be rezoned from mixed use to commercial.

Voters in Columbus and Franklin County, however, were the only ones in a potential casino location to oppose the idea.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman, City Council President Michael C. Mentel, and other local leaders have objected to the Arena District site, but said they would be open to others.

Mr. Schippers said other sites were rejected before Penn National moved last spring to put the amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The mostly empty Westland Mall, on West Broad Street near the west Outerbelt, wasn't suitable because it isn't in Columbus, Mr. Schippers said.

The amendment calls for host cities to share 5 percent of the taxes that casinos would pay, which he said would mean more than $8 million annually for Columbus.

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