Stakes are set in state Casino issueWritten by Scott McKimmy | | email@example.com
Voters may be pulling more than one lever in deciding the outcome of Issue 6, which allows a new casino to operate in Wilmington, near Dayton and Cincinnati, with a provision that tax dollars be distributed to all 88 Ohio counties.
Proponents say it would give Ohio a seat at the table and a share in the gambling dollars wagered in casinos in neighboring states. Opponents argue the language is flawed by loopholes, with some against gambling altogether.
The amendment calls for no more than one privately owned casino in a limited section in Clinton County. After taking a small portion of the receipts for administrative costs and funding problem-gaming prevention and treatment programs, the state would give 10 percent to Clinton County and divide the rest among the remaining counties. It also creates a gaming regulatory commission, and, among other provisions, allows a hotel or other resort-related destination as well as liquor licenses.
Backing the issue, MyOhioNow.com plans to develop the casino resort to draw gamers away from nearby gambling destinations in bordering states, according to co-founder Dr. Brad Pressman, whose medical field is cardiac medicine. He anticipates Ohio to generate $200 to 300 million in tourism dollars that otherwise would travel out of state.
The casino would pay a tax rate up to 30 percent of its receipts, with each county’s cut based on its population.
“A county like Lucas County can expect $7.5 million to $8 million each and every year coming back to help the local needs of the community,” he said. “And the great thing is, the money has no strings attached; the county can spend it on whatever programs it sees to be appropriate.”
Opponents, such as Bob Tenenbaum, spokesman for the Vote No Casinos Committee, say, “Not so fast.” Tenenbaum emphasized the tax rate can vary if another casino moves into Ohio; it would “reduce the tax paid by the casino authorized by this amendment to the lesser of the rate taxed on another casino or 25 percent.” He described the proposal as the “worst possible way to go about” expanding gambling in Ohio, adding his group condones gambling itself.
“There are several basic problems with this issue primarily because the way the proposed amendment is worded,” he said. “There are enormous loopholes that could seriously affect the state’s ability to collect taxes on casino profits and to regulate the operation of the casino.”
It would be exempt from “all local and state laws and any constitutional provisions that would prohibit the operation of this privately owned casino,” according to the language. And although it calls for a regulatory commission, the it imposes no house limits or hour restrictions and allows any games permitted by the state of Nevada or states adjacent to Ohio.
“So in other words, the decision on what kind of games can be offered by this casino is going to be left to people in Nevada and Indiana and West Virginia and Pennsylvania rather than to Ohioans,” Tenenbaum said.
Yet the proposed amendment limits the number of casinos in the state to one, in part leading opponents to claim the greatest push behind stopping it, Penn National Gaming in Wyomissing, Penn., holds a vested interest as the owner of Argosy Casinos in Lawrenceburg, Ind. Penn National declined to be interviewed for this story.
“This is, in our opinion at least, because Argosy Casino makes an awful lot of money from Ohioans going across the Ohio River to gamble in Indiana,” Pressman said. “In fact, they probably make $5 million a year doing this from Ohio. And now they’re in our state, telling us in essence that we shouldn’t have a casino or the deal’s not good enough.
“Thirty-eight states have casino gambling; can they all be wrong? Can all the governments be derelict? Those attorneys were hired by an out-of-state casino company. They’re doing everything and anything they can to stop this issue because they’re afraid of their own bottom line.”