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Perspectives

Issue 3: a sweetheart deal for Gilbert, et al.

BY ROBERT REEBEL

Ohio should have legalized some form of casino gambling a long time ago. Countless dollars have bled into neighboring states over the years since casinos opened in Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Furthermore, much of the anti-gambling language in Ohio law smacks of a puritanical desire to protect the people from their own inclinations toward vice. But such a major change in the state as the legalization of casinos ought to be done in an honest way.

Issue 3 bears much in common with casino proposals repeatedly struck down at the ballot box in years past. It would amend the state constitution to grant exclusive license to a well-connected cadre of entrepreneurs for the operation of casinos in four Ohio cities – Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati. People in Greater Cleveland have wasted much breath debating how many jobs may be created, or where the casino should be located. Missing from much of the public debate, however, is the backroom flavor of the proposal.

Neighboring states like Pennsylvania opened casinos through a competitive bidding process, which allowed our neighbor to the east to get a better deal on taxes on casinos. Other states, such as Illinois and Massachusetts, are charging much higher licensing fees for the casinos. Ohio’s lower taxes on casino revenues and lower licensing fees might be a good idea if we were trying to draw casino entrepreneurs into Ohio instead of a neighboring state, but that ship sailed long ago. Issue 3 is a giveaway to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Penn National Gambling, Inc.

Other questions about whether or not a casino would be good for Cleveland are beside the point. Some say that now is the time to legalize casinos in Ohio because of the dire economic straits in which we find ourselves. Maybe so, but we owe it to ourselves as a community to do so in a way that will maximize our benefit.

Multiple casino proposals of the same sort have failed to win voter support in years past, but this one seems to have the best chance of passing yet. Desperate times drive people to do desperate things.

Casino gaming could be a boon to the state’s beleaguered economy, but desperation is not an excuse to do things badly when they could just as easily be done well. Issue 3 seems to follow the pattern of so many other grand endeavors being undertaken by governments across the country under the guise of public works. Massive favors are granted to those with the right connections.

Let’s legalize casinos in Ohio. But let’s not be fooled into thinking it will save our economy. And let’s not let a document as fundamental as the Ohio Constitution enshrine a monopoly for friends of the powerful. Until casino proposals become more honest, Ohioans should continue to reject them.

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ON THE FRONT PAGE

Investors of tomorrow succeeding today
BY ROBERT ROZBORIL

CSU wins "green" biz award
BY JEREMY BADER

Alex Storozynski tells the saga of an unknown American hero
BY BEN GIFFORD

New urban partnership to improve city management
BY VINCE FRATIANI


PERSPECTIVES

Issue 3: Is it worth the gamble?

No!

Yes!


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