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Published: Saturday, 10/24/2009

Ministers say 'no' on casinos

BLADE STAFF

More than 40 local Christian ministers and lay leaders have joined together to urge voters to oppose Issue 3, a ballot item that would allow casino gambling in Ohio, in the Nov. 3 election.

The Rev. Don Fothergill of Toledo's Washington Church, who is leading the effort, enlisted the ministers and lay leaders to sign a statement against casinos.

The impromptu group follows the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which declared its opposition to the casino initiative Oct. 5.

Mr. Fothergill cited a number of concerns for keeping casinos out of the state, including the threat of gambling addictions, a negative impact on area restaurants and entertainment venues, and potential increases in divorces, bankruptcies, substance abuse, and crime. He also said casinos will produce fewer permanent jobs than proponents claim.

"We live in communities where we are all interconnected," he wrote. "The ruined lives of even a minority of our fellow citizens impacts us all."

Signatories include priests, ministers, and lay leaders representing a cross-section of the local Christian community.

The constitutional amendment would authorize casinos in four Ohio cities, including one in Toledo to be built on Miami Street in East Toledo west of the I-75 interchange.

Proponents say the casino will create 34,000 jobs statewide and provide $651 million a year in tax revenues, including nearly $6.4 million for Lucas County; $11.3 million for Toledo, and $8.7 million for public schools in Lucas County.

The Lucas County Board of Elections is warning absentee voters to double-check ballots before sending them in.

Director Linda Howe said about 200 ballots have been received with mistakes that disqualify them from being counted.

She said the errors include failure to sign the envelope, not filling in all the information, and leaving the ballot outside the security envelope.

"For the most part, voters are returning their absentee ballots with no problems, but we are still seeing about 5 percent that are coming back with errors," she said.

In the March, 2008, primary election, more than 900 ballots were disqualified because they failed to insert the ballot in the envelope.

Ms. Howe said the board is trying to reach voters who sent in faulty ballots to allow them to correct the problems.



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