Ohio Issue 3 -Casino Gambling in Ohio

This November, Ohio will vote on casino gambling; but that's nothing new. Legislators and developers have tried many times, yet always failed, to get a thumbs up on placing casinos in selected Ohio cities. Each time voters have rejected the option, including one as recently as November 2008.

Why Now?-

In the past, proponents of Ohio casino gambling have backed off and waited a few years before repackaging and resubmitting the issue to voters one more time; so why are they bouncing back so fast? Why now? As with so many things these days, the answer is the economy. Ohio, like many other states is experiencing a revenue shortage; and some see gambling as a simple answer.

In a financial awakening of sorts, Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland, jumped on the gambling bandwagon a few short months after the 2008 Issue 3 Gambling initiative was defeated. He's stood up in support of gambling in Ohio as a way to increase jobs and tax revenue to offset recent job losses.

Jobs in Ohio-

Petitioners began earlier this year, pressing for signatures to put the gambling issue on the November 2009 ballot. Playing to a growing hot spot, they approached some voters with a request to sign a petition for "jobs in Ohio." Last year, Issue 6 gambling supporters tried the "Jobs" approach, presenting a perfect mesh of purposes: gambling jobs for Wilmington, a small mid-Ohio town already suffering from growing unemployment.

If passed, Issue 6 meant a single developer would build a single casino in Wilmington. Earlier in the year, German-based DHL, the city's largest employer, had announced plans to shut down their Wilmington hub, pull out operations and layoff over 10,000 employees. Gambling meant construction and casino jobs for numerous soon-to-be-unemployed locals. Wilmington businesses would benefit from the tourism; and the city, county and state would see substantial tax revenues.

Televised ads had soon-to-be unemployed DHL workers practically begging voters to pass Issue 6. The developer aired TV and Radio spots providing theoretical answers to theoretical questions that had people doubting his veracity, sincerity and financial ability to complete the project.

The pro Issue 6 efforts were overwhelmed by anti gambling forces. Ohio organizations who had been fighting gaming for years campaigned to defeat the issue. Their efforts were supplemented by an estimated 40 million dollar plus ad blitz financed by a gaming company with an Ohio racetrack and casinos in two bordering states.

Their Anti Issue 6 campaign bombarded the airwaves with questions about potential casino tax loopholes and hints about the developer's reputation. A mobile billboard carried the "No on Issue 6" message over Cincinnati streets; and canvassers passed out literature in Obama rally crowds.

As with Ohio gambling issues in the past, the 2008 gambling went down to defeat as did the promise of Ohio jobs.

What's Different This Time?

While last year the opposition concentrated on moral issues, crime and family problems due to gambling, this year it's all about the economy. There is already a growing list of organizations lining up on the side of gambling. Ohio for Jobs and Growth Plan, an alternate name for the gambling initiative, is airing an ad citing a billion dollars in revenue lost each year when Ohio voters carry their gambling dollars across state lines to West Virginia, Michigan and Indiana.

While some police organizations came out against Issue 6 in 2008, predicting a potential rise in crime if gambling came to Ohio; this year the Ohio Fraternal Order Of Police have gone on record with their support, citing 34,000 jobs to be gained.

A New Approach-

The new emphasis on Ohio gaming calls for a simple plan. Ohio race tracks have been in business for years. They already have gambling; so allowing slot machine parlors will be a matter of modifying what operations are legal for them. The Governor has already issued a directive for racetrack slots to begin as early as May 2010, and race tracks have deadlines to complete the application process along with a schedule of fee payment deadlines. The governor's unilateral order is currently being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The passage of Issue 3 will also allow full casino operations in Ohio. Major cities may come on board with slot parlors or full blown casinos. Like other gambling states, Ohioans hope to bring in new tax revenue to replace dwindling income, and sale tax proceeds may help keep Ohio race tracks in business.

What a Difference A Year Makes?

A lot has changed since November 2008. DHL continues phasing out their Wilmington operations. With several subsequent layoffs since then, the small city is already seeing the effect of thousands of lost jobs. Earlier this year, Wilmington residents received what was noted as the largest American charitable food and personal care item distribution in history. Wilmington, Ohio, along with the rest of the state and the nation is still struggling under the effects of a full blown economic crisis. With jobs lost and tax revenues down, many citiy workers are dealing with layoffs.

It's early September and the campaign in support of the Issue 3 Gambling initiative is in full swing. The gaming company who so vigorously opposed Ohio's gambling issue last year owns a race track in Ohio. With race track gambling parlors on the table, they stand to benefit from the new wave of support; so perhaps they will take a wait and see position. If they plan to oppose the new Issue 3 gambling initiative, they have yet to show their hand.

Perhaps this means, after years of fighting, Ohio will finally welcome Casino Gambling within its borders.