Four Times In Ohio

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 7, 2008 in General Discussion, News | No Comments >>

If you were one of the optimistic Ohioans that want to see the creation of jobs, increased tax revenue, and keeping money in your state for business; forget about it… For the fourth time in eighteen years, the measure for a casino has been defeated.

This did not include having casinos at racetracks, which has been on the wish list of race fans for quite sometime. They were watching closely to see if there would be momentum to get the ball rolling. But, na-baba-na…. It won’t be happening anytime soon. So with existing ADW problems, tracks cutting purses, and fans losing interest, this could be an eventual death knell for racing in the Buckeye state. Only the future will tell, and many Ohioans were counting on the creation of jobs.

Issue 6 was mostly a struggle between two large casino developers: Lakes Entertainment Inc., the Minnesota company that would have had an 80 percent stake in the casino, and Penn National Gaming Inc. of Pennsylvania, whose Argosy Casino in Indiana near Cincinnati would have lost business to the new casino.

Early polls showed Issue 6 leading, but support withered in the face of a $27 million advertising campaign against the measure.

The anti-Issue 6 campaign hammered away at a “loophole” in the measure that might have allowed the casino to escape taxation if an Indian casino came to Ohio. Lakes Entertainment insisted that it would pay a 30 percent tax on gambling revenue to be divided among Ohio counties.

Issue 6 was the fourth gambling-related ballot measure to be defeated in Ohio since 1990. The gap narrowed on each of the three previous measures, with a 2006 proposal to allow slot machines at racetracks receiving 43 percent.

The partners on the committee backing Issue 6, Rick A. Lertzman and Brad A. Pressman, did not return calls last night.

While most of the action over Issue 6 came from the two casino developers, the state’s longtime gambling opponents mounted a shoestring campaign against the measure.

They said yesterday that the measure would have failed even without the Penn National-funded campaign against it.

“There’s too much (gambling) out there,” said David P. Zanotti, co-chairman of the Vote No Casinos and president of the Ohio Round-table, a conservative public-policy group. “People aren’t impressed. The bloom is off the rose.”

Nonetheless, Zanotti predicted that yet another gambling proposal will emerge before long, either by Penn National itself or Cleveland developers. U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich, a longtime gambling opponent, said backers of any new gambling proposals can expect stiff resistance.

The racing industry had waited with baited breath to see how casino legislation would be accepted. They wanted the casino idea to grow in popularity, as this would have assisted their cause. But in the meantime, they are a long road away.