|By Jim Provance, The Blade, Toledo,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
November. 4, 2009 - --COLUMBUS -- Whether because of Lady Luck, the big bucks spent, or a recession-weary electorate, Ohio voters said yesterday they're ready to roll the dice with Las Vegas-style casino gambling.
With 100 percent of the unofficial vote counted by Wednesday morning, 53 percent of voters backed Issue 3 and its four casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Toledo's casino, as etched into the Ohio Constitution, would be on a 44-acre reclaimed industrial site on the south bank of the Maumee River in East Toledo abutting Rossford and I-75.
Lucas, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton counties, homes for three of the casinos, embraced the proposal, but Franklin County, home to the Columbus venture, soundly defeated it.
"They won. We lost," said Rob Walgate, vice president of the anti-gambling Ohio Roundtable. "One of the many faults of this amendment is that now, constitutionally, Franklin County is stuck with something it didn't want. That's part of the process when you do this in the constitution."
Each casino could have up to 5,000 slot machines plus roulette, poker, keno, blackjack, and any other game allowed in neighboring states. The amendment states that the casino owners "shall" invest $250 million in improvements at each of the four sites but sets no deadline.
"[The close race] means that a lot of voters have said in the past that they wanted to see expanded gaming in Ohio," said Bob Ten- enbaum, spokesman for Penn National Gaming and Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, the financial forces behind Issue 3.
"They recognize the economic situation that we're in and believe this would be a great way to generate jobs and economic growth," he said.
Penn would build and operate the Toledo and Columbus casinos, Mr. Gilbert the Cleveland and Cincinnati ventures.
Few, however, believe that yesterday's vote will be the last word on the subject. There is some sentiment in Columbus, now that Ohioans have opened the door, to pursue another constitutional amendment to address what lawmakers consider to be shortcomings in Issue 3. Those include perhaps a higher tax rate with a cash-starved state budget dealt into the game.
Yvette Harris, 48, who voted at East Toledo's Birmingham Library, started out thinking a casino would contribute to gambling addiction. But, laid off for the last year and a half from a job as a health-care worker, she said the need for jobs overrode those concerns.
"People need to be adults and take care of themselves," she said, adding, "Yes, I will apply" for the jobs.
The backers of Issue 3 have estimated that their four projects would create 19,000 temporary construction jobs and 15,000 permanent casino jobs, of which, they've pledged, 90 percent would go to Ohioans.
A 33 percent tax levied against casino gross receipts, after payouts, would be divided among all counties, all school districts, the eight largest cities, the new gaming regulatory panel, a state racing commission fund, law enforcement training, and gambling addiction programs.
Staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this article.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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Copyright (c) 2009, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
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