Category Archives: Public Policy Radar

Games of Skill? No Chance! Update

gamblingIn an article in today’s Columbus Dispatch (June 20, 2007), Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted called for legislation to ban so-called “games of skill,” reiterating his opinion that “…just because a game is 51% skill does not make it a game of skill…” and also that the move to re-label the games is merely a backdoor incremental approach to legalize the devices. Governor Ted Strickland and Attorney General Mark Dann have called for limiting payouts but Husted isn’t swayed by the arguments for this. He says limiting payouts will not limit losses, which is the bottom line for the gambling device manufacturers, distributors and operators who rely on the long odds for their considerable profit margins.

We can only speculate what effect this will have on attempts to expand gambling through Video Lottery Terminals (VLT’s) modified to show archived horse races that are represented in HB 118 and SB 125, currently before the Ohio Legislature.

We applaud Speaker Husted’s stand on principle. Thank you, sir!

Come back for updates. Tell us what you think with a comment.

Games Of Skill? No Chance!

gamblingCommentary By Chuck Michaelis

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”- Sir Walter Scott

What looked, at first, like a carefully choreographed effort to circumvent the will of the Ohio electorate, which voted in a 57%-43% rejection, on casino-style gambling has begun to take on the appearance of having devolved into a Three Stooges comedy routine. And while we might laugh at the eye-poking, suspender-snapping and non-sequitur banter of the performers, whose ranks include elected representatives and for-profit gambling companies, the potential outcome of their actions cannot be treated so cavalierly.

The latest chapter in this continuing story began earlier this year when Representative Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and Senator Steve Stivers of Columbus, ignoring the crushing defeat just last fall of State Issue 3 that would have allowed casino gambling in Ohio, introduced identical companion bills in their respective bodies, HB 118 and SB 125. The purpose of both bills is to permit Ohio racetracks to provide a venue for bettors to gamble on the outcome of random and anonymous pre-recorded horse races which would be shown on a multi-purpose gambling device specially chipped for this particular style of gambling. An identical bill was defeated last session when testimony was given that proved that with a simple chip change, these horse racing terminals could be converted to video slot or lottery (Keno) machines (see the article “Racinos Bad Public Policy” elsewhere on the Principled Policy blog).

In that 2006 session, realizing the bill was guaranteed to raise the ire of social conservative voters in a crucial election year (which became a virtual political bloodbath anyway), Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted required Rep. Seitz, the House Majority Whip, to guarantee 50 “yes” votes from his own caucus before it could be brought to the floor, according to well-placed sources. Despite Seitz’s best lobbying effort, he could not deliver the required “yes” votes. Now, in this session of the General Assembly, the Senate version of this bill (SB 125) has moved forward first, passing the Senate on 5/23/07 by a vote of 25 “yes” to 8 “no” and is now before the Ohio House. It is doubtful that Speaker Husted will impose the same restriction on this bill as that placed on the House version last session.

The purpose of this legislation is officially to “help” the Ohio horse racing industry that is feeling pressure from casino gambling in nearby states to be more competitive by offering similar gambling options. Legislators are warm to this idea because increased revenues at the tracks means, supposedly, increased tax revenues to the state. Just like the state “cashes in” with the Ohio Lottery, which is in reality a tax on the poor based on false hopes fueled by flashy and misleading advertising, some Ohio legislators hope to cash in on the revenue potential from “Racinos”, heedless of the extensive economic and social costs associated with this effort. Most importantly, the unstated reality is that large increase in revenues to tracks and gambling corporations can translate into large contributions to re-election funds and party coffers, especially to the “friends” of the gambling interests.

It is evident to many observers that the tracks have been well-greased this go-around, and that SB125 is on a fast track to final approval. The Ohio legislature will be recessing for the summer after finalizing the state’s biennial budget bill, which will be adopted by the end of June. The pace of hearings on SB125 is such to ensure that the bill is brought to the House floor for a vote prior to that recess. The bill was assigned to the House State Government and Elections Committee (gee, what irony in a name), on which sit 7 of the co-sponsors of the companion legislation, HB 118. A check of the record shows that two more members of this committee voted in favor of the previous session’s version of this expansion of gambling, giving the bill at least 9 votes (which happens to be just the number needed to clear the committee with a simple majority, which is comprised of 17 members of the House). House sponsor Rep. Seitz sits on the committee, as well as four other members of the leadership of the chamber from both parties.

The committee has stated how concerned they are about the struggling horse industry, but has yet to raise any questions or concerns relative to the human costs such state endorsement of further addictive behavior would bring to Ohio. Research clearly indicates that such rapid-fire gambling options increase the potential for developing problem gambling in a more expedited onset of the behavior which indicates such addiction. None of that has been of pressing concern so far to the elected representatives of the people, nor is it a concern that in the last 16 years, the people have soundly rejected all attempts to expand gambling in Ohio.

From the other side of the political spectrum is the recent St. Vitus Dance of Attorney General Mark Dann on the status of the “Match ‘Um Up” game distributed by Castle King LLC. AG Dann hired Gaming Laboratories, LLC to do a study to determine if “Match Um Up” had a skill element greater than 50%, which would purportedly make the game a “game of skill” rather than a gambling device. Based on this report, Dann ruled the game a “game of skill.” How precisely this determination can be made from the information provided by Gaming Laboratories remains a mystery because nowhere in the report is there an indication of any percentage of skill versus chance involved in Match ‘Um Up.

As soon as AG Dann announced that the report would be released to the public, Castle King immediately filed for and was granted a temporary injunction requiring the Ohio AG to keep the Gaming Laboratories report secret. This threw Dann into fit of pique and he immediately announced that if the report were not released, then he would declare the games “gambling devices.” This raises an obvious question; what sort of information could possibly be contained in this report that would change the status of “Match Um Up” from a “game of chance” to a “game of skill?” The answer is apparently nothing of any real significance. Castle King agreed to the release of a redacted report, available here.

In a June 7, 2007 article in the Columbus Dispatch, Castle King attorney David Kopech argues that the unredacted report contains information such as the game icon pattern and strategy that could allow players to “beat the game” and allow competitors to copy it. This statement proceeds from some very interesting assumptions. For instance, it assumes that a person knowing the icon pattern and game strategy could overcome the device’s software-controlled icon timing and other factors. It also assumes that there is no governing devices in the game to control the skill element.

In another article in the Columbus Dispatch from June 9, 2007, explains that beating the game through “skill” requires memorizing the positions 128 icons as they whiz by, each icon being visible for either three-tenths or eight-tenths of a second (0.333 milliseconds or 0.83 milliseconds), the speed determined by the software and fully under the control of the game operator (not the player). In the same article Dr. Richard McGowan of Boston College explains that in this kind of game the distinction between skill and chance is irrelevant. He added that “It’s a backdoor way of trying to get into casino gambling. No doubt about it.”

Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who is not opposed to gambling, in the same Dispatch article explains that the games payouts are determined mostly by chance and are controlled by a governor and cannot be won every time, making them mostly dependent on chance and therefore illegal. Petro also pointed out that allowing similar “skill” games opens the door to Indian Casino gaming.

Petro’s and McGowan’s assertions that the devices are actually games of chance are backed by the technical specifications as outlined in the patent applications for them. A close examination of those specifications reveals that the devices are designed to limit the skill element, thus keeping the “odds with the house” ensuring limited payouts and big collections for the game operator.

And in yet another article from the Columbus Dispatch from June 10, 2007, we were informed that Castle King has “…hundreds of machines waiting in warehouses for shipment around the state if Dann approves…” This revelation raises an obvious question. Why would a gaming device manufacturer move “hundreds of devices” worth several thousand of dollars apiece into a state where the previous Attorney General had ruled that games in question were gambling devices and illegal to operate under Ohio law? Why would they store this type of device in a state that had only 6 months before resoundingly defeated casino-style gambling expansion? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to keep them in a warehouse at or nearer the distributor and truck them in if, by some chance, the AG should rule in their favor? Logically, the only reason to go to the expense (hundreds of thousands of dollars) of filling several warehouses in Ohio with illegal gaming devices is if you believe you have excellent odds of having them declared legal. For what reason, do you suppose, Castle King concluded that it was a good economic gamble to invest massive economic resources in the effort to have the devices available for delivery at a moments notice, when they could have had the machines here by truck in a few hours if the AG’s decision was favorable? And what does it say about the company’s estimate of the potential profitability, that they believe it would be more lucrative to warehouse them here and have them ready at the exact hour they become legal rather than delaying the few hours that it would take to truck them in? These and other questions need answers. This author is not holding his breath while waiting for those answers.

With the legislature’s Republican delegation taking careful aim at its own electoral foot and about to pull the trigger with the gambling expansion bill (among other issues like eminent domain reform), all that needed be done by the Democrats was to relax and let it happen, even help it along by voting for whichever measure happened to find success. Gambling opponents would only remember that the Republican majority proposed and passed the bill. A very sound political strategy. Then along came Attorney General Mark Dann, who stumbled into the fray with his now-withdrawn proposal to anoint what are clearly gambling devices (as anyone examining the information available on the devices would by reasoned analysis conclude) as “games of skill.”

Enter stage left the very savvy politician Governor Ted Strickland on his white horse. Putting his best populist face forward, Governor Strickland said that the people have spoken at the ballot box on the issue of casino gambling. This from the same Governor Strickland who was inexplicably tone deaf earlier this year, and unable to hear the electoral song sung by voters in 2004 on Issue One while implicitly recognizing homosexual partners, one or both of whom are employed in state government, as being the equivalent of married and entitled to “domestic benefits.”

The Governor devised a clever strategy that allowed AG Dann to recover at least some of his credibility. He announced that he will veto any legislation that expands gambling in Ohio. This is a good thing and even a good thing done for the wrong reason is commendable. Thank you, Governor Strickland!

He also issued a joint statement with AG Dann in which they both called for the Ohio Legislature to pass a new law banning cash payouts on games like Match ‘Um Up and Tic Tac Fruit. This allows Dann some wiggle room to correct the blunder of dallying with gambling interests by appearing to be “concerned” about the gambling corporations’ “lack of candor” and proposing a solution for the problem he himself created. This public relations dog-and-pony show is intended to cover the fact that gaming devices are already banned by Ohio law. In a Columbus Dispatch article from June 15,2007 Ohio House of Representatives Jon Husted catches this “nuance” stating that the debate over banning payouts is moot because the devices are already illegal. He also said “How about we just eliminate them? Just enforce the law.” Husted also echoes Former AG Petro’s concerns that the legalization of small cash payouts would be a back door to legalization of gaming machines which opens the door to Indian gaming casinos as it has in other states like Arkansas. Federal law allows tribes to negotiate to open casinos using the devices approved by the states.

So, in the final analysis Governor Strickland’s seeming response to the clear voice echoing the will of the people may have a somewhat different motivation than that purported. What looked at a distance like a knight on a white horse may be resolving into a snake oil merchant on a donkey as we examine him close up. Time will tell.

In the legislature, it seems term limits, big political payouts and avoiding the hard work of balancing a state budget through the tough choices of lowering taxes and cutting state spending might outweigh the will of the people in this instance. I wonder if the people who voted in such large numbers last fall to curb gambling will show back up next fall to curb those who like to gamble on the good will of the electorate. A large number of members of the Ohio legislature are placing their bets on a very risky game of chance.

Chuck Michaelis is the president of Rocky Fork Formulas, Inc., a dietary supplement design and distribution company. He is also the Executive Director of Camp American, a week-long summer Christian worldview education camp for ages 12 years to adult. He is currently the Vice-chairman of the Institute For Principled Policy. You can contact him at [email protected]

Update on HB 47- Bill To Rein In The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District Board

Information provided by Marlys J. Barbee, Secretary/Treasurer CITIZENS AGAINST MWCD ASSESSMENT

Policy RadarThe Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is a state government subdivision which is trying to put a $270 million general tax upon the 2.1 million people of all or part of the following Ohio counties: Ashland, Belmont, Carroll, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Richland, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas, Washington and Wayne.

The main issue is that the MWCD is allowed by the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 6101 to apply an assessment upon the people who receive a direct benefit for their “services”. However, the MWCD are trying to say ALL properties in the 18-county district are receiving a benefit, thus the “assessment” has now become a general tax. There is no vote by the people, no say in how much money is collected, no say as to who spends the money or how the money is spent. This government sub-division must be put back into the box. Their power is out of control.

Attempting to do just that, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) of Lakeville, Ohio, has introduced legislation which would require a board of directors, not a conservancy court of judges, to perform certain functions under the Conservancy District’s law, and prohibits the levying of an assessment by such a conservancy district on real property that is not directly benefited from the assessment. There are a number of other reasons to support this legislation as we (CAMA — Citizens Against MWCD Assessment) have delved into the workings of MWCD, finding corruption and dishonesty.

This bill, HB 47, in now in the Economic Development and Environment Committee, chaired by Rep. Thom Collier. We need people to contact the committee members, asking their support of HB 47. By going to the web site, www.stopmwcd.org , you can find the names and contact information of all the committee members.

The next hearing on this bill is May 16, and we are hoping a final hearing on May 23 will bring this bill to a vote. Our opponents are using taxpayer’s money to pay lobbyists to convince these lawmakers of their “right” to do what they are doing. We as grassroots workers need the taxpayers themselves to come to our aid to win this battle.

This web site will also give you more detailed information regarding our research and concerns. The support from people all over the state of Ohio is necessary as we look forward to having this bill pass committee and go to the House floor for a vote, then on to the Senate. Most legislators know nothing about what is wrong with this one Conservancy District out of all Conservancy Districts across the state that has gone out of control as a “recreation district”.

Detailed Report On The Community Defense Act- SB 16

Policy RadarBACKGROUND
Prior to the passage of H.B. 23 in 2006, the 1,308 townships in Ohio had very little authority to address the problems associated with sexually oriented businesses within their jurisdiction. H.B. 23 simply extended to every political subdivision in the state the necessary home rule authority to do so according to the specific needs of each community.

The House-passed version of H.B. 23 on a vote of 92-5 not only included the home rule authority for townships but also statewide standards for all sexually oriented businesses regarding their hours of operation and the distance required between employees and patrons. The Senate-passed version of H.B. 23 removed the statewide standards, and then was concurred and accepted by the House.

PURPOSE
Numerous studies identifying the adverse secondary effects of this industry point to a compelling state interest for these two statewide standards. Therefore, in response to a voter-initiated petition bearing the signatures of over 220,000 Ohio citizens, the Secretary of State on January 2, 2007 transmitted to the General Assembly a bill entitled the “Community Defense Act” (CDA) in accordance with constitutional guidelines for such.

Passage of CDA will set minimum standards for adult businesses in Ohio to ensure that the industry will be regulated in order to eliminate or mitigate their negative effects of-

  • increased crime (sexual crimes, prostitution, illegal drugs, etc.),
  • decreased property values of the surrounding residential and business property,
  • and the devastation brought to so many marriages and families.

Townships certainly will want to do everything within their power to take advantage of the authority given them by H.B. 23 to address those problems within their jurisdiction. But the affect of such regulations could be greatly diminished by adjacent communities that do not have at least these two regulations in place.

NARROWLY TAILORED
The focus of CDA is to place two regulations on all sexually oriented businesses, establishing a uniform minimum industry standard in Ohio law to address the problems associated with sexually oriented businesses.

Numerous government studies (available upon request from Citizens For Community Values) have documented adverse secondary effects associated with sexually oriented businesses. These include the following:

  1. Increased crime, especially, but not limited to, crimes of a sexual nature;
  2. Decreased property values, both residential and commercial; and
  3. Urban blight, the general downgrading of the surrounding areas.

Less well documented but undeniable and equally deleterious to Ohio’s communities are the adverse effects that sexually oriented businesses too often have on the marriages and families of those who frequent them. Considerable direct and indirect costs are attached to the breakdown of marriages, the dismantling of families, and the accompanying loss of individual productivity.

Although the passage of CDA would provide a statewide minimum standard for sexually oriented businesses, the bill continues to allow local communities to extend regulations farther than state law to address issues specific to each locality.

COURT APPROVED STANDARDS
Regularly, local communities in Ohio are forced to deal with the problems of adult businesses. Many spend years and countless thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend common sense regulatory protections challenged by this industry. CDA will help alleviate this burden on local governments and local budgets. The United States Supreme Court, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and other federal courts have consistently upheld the rights of governments to implement the two regulations of this proposed legislation:

  1. Employees who regularly appear nude or semi-nude would be required to maintain a six-foot (6’) distance from patrons while on the premises. Violation of this provision is a first-degree misdemeanor. Cases that support this distance requirement include:
    • DLS, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, 107 F.3d 403 (6th Cir. 1997)
    • Kentucky Restaurant Concepts, Inc. v. City of Louisville and Jefferson County, 209 Fed. Supp. 2d 672 (W. D. Ky 2002)
    • Gammoh v. City of La Habra, 395 f.3d 1114 (9th Cir. 2005)

  2. Sexually oriented businesses would be required to remain closed between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 am, with the exception of those holding a liquor permit, which may remain open until the hour specified in their permit, but which may not offer adult entertainment between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 am. Violation of this provision is a first-degree misdemeanor. Cases that support hours of operation regulation include:
    • Richland Bookmart, Inc. v. Nichols, 278 F3d 570 (6th Cir. 2002);
    • Ctr. For Fair Public Policy v. Maricopa County, 336 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2003).

OTHER APPLICABLE CASE LAW
See FULL TEXT OF PROPOSED LAW, §3768.03 Rationale and findings; construction for expanded list of cases and studies. Noteworthy cases include:

  • City of Erie v. Pap’s AM 529 US 277 (2000)
  • City of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc. 475 US 41 (1986)
  • Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. 501 US 560 (1991)
  • Déjà Vu of Cincinnati, LLC v. Union Township Board of Trustees, 411 F.3d 777 (6th Cir. 2005, en banc)
  • Bamon Corp. v. City of Dayton 923 F.2d 470 (6th Cir. 1991)

OTHER STATE LAWS ALREADY ON THE BOOKS
Several states already have statewide regulations in place to regulate sexually oriented businesses including Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Rules similar to CDA exist in the following states:

  • Delaware: Hours of operation limited to 10:00am–10:00pm, Mon-Sat, no Sundays or state holidays
  • Arizona: Hours of operation limited to 8:00am–1:00am, Mon-Sat, 12:00noon-1:00am Sundays
  • Tennessee: No full nudity allowed on premises, 6ft distance required between performers and patrons, employees must be licensed, no direct tipping or touching allowed

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
Bills that come before the General Assembly by voter-initiative have a limited time for consideration. The Legislature has a four-month period in which to pass, amend, vote down or ignore the bill, in this case from January 2 – May 1, 2007.

If the action taken by the Legislature is not acceptable to the committee representing the petitioners, the committee may collect additional signatures on a supplemental petition equal in number to those required on the first submission – 120,688 registered voters. Supplemental signers cannot have signed the first petition and the petitions must be submitted within 90 days starting May 2. If a sufficient number of signatures are validated, the bill will be submitted to the voters on the next general election ballot for approval or rejection.

WHAT’S THE BILL’S STATUS AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The current status of this bill is that it has been passed by a very wide margin in the Ohio Senate. It is currently in the House Ohio House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Louis Blessing (R)-Cincinnati. The bill passed by the Senate is currently in jeopardy in the Judiciary Committee and Chairman Blessing is wavering on his commitment to move the bill substantially intact to the House floor. House leadership, which assured pro-family leaders only two weeks ago that the bill would pass the House unchanged, are now buckling under intense pressure from strip club lobbying firms. They threaten to amend the bill to the point where it is made a toothless shadow of its intended design. Please contact Chairman Blessing, and the Ohio House of Representatives leadership, House Speaker Jon Husted, Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Dewine, Majority Floor Leader Larry Flowers, Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jim Carmichael, House Majority Whip Bill Seitz, and House Assistant Majority Whip Michelle Schneider.

Please contact your representative and House leadership no later than the afternoon of Monday May 14! Ask them, firmly but politely, to pass the Senate version of the bill. As always a letter or phone call is best! Faxes and emails are often ignored or shredded by representatives and staffers.

If the House defangs this legislation, and it appears likely that they will, be prepared to volunteer to pass petitions at your churches, civic groups, etc.

“Racinos” Bad Public Policy

Policy RadarIgnoring the resounding 57-43% defeat of casino gambling by the Ohio electorate last fall, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Sen. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) have introduced companion bills, House Bill 118 and Senate Bill 125, to bring electronic gaming devices to Ohio horse racing tracks.

Stivers and Seitz are touting the allegedly economic advantages of allowing casino-style electronic gambling. They are, however, ignoring numerous economic impact studies which indicate that the long-term economic costs exceed the short-term tax-revenue gains by several times. These studies measured the costs to society in terms of increased bankruptcy filings, divorce, business failures, crime rates and resultant incarceration costs, suicide rates, etc.

These bills are mirrors of legislation offered during the previous General Assembly session (HB158) by Rep. Seitz to expand this form of gambling in Ohio. Testimony was given during that process by one of our own board members, and, as the new proposals are virtually the same as the previous proposal, the following are the rationales for the opposition to this effort by these two elected officials. House Bill 158 was passed in committee, but failed to receive sufficient support to bring the measure to the floor of the Ohio House for a vote.

Testimony opposing “Instant Gaming” expansion at Ohio horse racing tracks:

I come before you today to express opposition to the passage of House Bill 158, sponsored by Representative Bill Seitz. Our organization strongly believes that there is a direct correlation between the expansion of gambling options in the state with increased economic and social welfare costs to society.

The proposal before the committee would allow the introduction of “instant racing” systems into the racing tracks in Ohio. Proponents have testified that this proposal would both be “just a slight modification” to the ability to wager at the tracks, to “reinventing the racetrack experience.” It is evident that the latter sentiment is closer to the truth: the experience would be reinvented to more closely mirror a casino then a horse track.

The committee was presented with photos of the proposed machines, distributed by RaceTech. From its appearance, it resembles a slot machine found in casinos. However, it is not just by appearance that that similarity is found. An Internet search revealed documentation relating to the European patent application by RaceTech for this machine. The documentation supplied for the patent application is revealing:

“Although the above described and other types of wagers commonly available
at racetracks are extremely enjoyable and entertaining, over the years,
the racing industry has seen a great increase in competition from
lotteries and casinos.

At least some patrons prefer a more immediate reward and higher frequency
wagering than customarily offered at race tracks. For example, a typical
racetrack offers one race every half hour. A casino having slot machines,
however, offers a patron the opportunity to place a wager that can be won
or lost every few seconds.

In order to remain competitive, the racing industry is in need of a gaming
system that satisfies the preferences of many different types of patrons.

Although simulcasting does enhance patron loyalty, the number of wagers a patron can place is still limited, particularly in comparison to a slot machine.

In discussing the technical aspects of this system, the patent information supplies the following:

“The gaming system also includes a video server interface for providing
high speed delivery of selected video clips from a historical database,
and a tote system interface which is coupled to a standard racetrack
totalisator system to allow the multi-function wagering terminal to
operate as a standard self-service racetrack wagering terminal. Other
interfaces to other types of wagering systems, such as a lottery, could
also be provided.

The above described gaming system can be utilized in connection with many
different types of races such as horse and dog races. In addition, the
system could be utilized in connection with other types of events. “

This would certainly seem to indicate that these particular types of machines could easily be converted to become both Video Lottery Terminals and slot-type machines. Nothing in the provisions of House Bill 158 would serve to restrict the conversion of these machines to VLT or slot-type wagering systems. This would be tantamount to allowing for the expansion to full Class III gambling in Ohio (and provide an easy inroad for the expansion of full casino gaming in this state). I would strongly urge the members of this committee to not rush to adopt this measure before a full study of the potential impacts upon our state in relation to the expansion of gambling via this proposal is conducted.

Other impacts that need to be considered are the personal and social costs associated with video gambling. Researcher Dr. Bob Breen, in the Journal of Gambling Studies, has commented that “Video gambling is the most addictive form of gambling in history. We found out that the men and women who ‘got hooked’ on video gambling became compulsive gamblers in about one year. Those who got hooked on other kinds of gambling (such as horses, sports betting, etc…) became compulsive gamblers after about 3 ½ years.”

This addiction brings increased social costs to society. Researchers William Thompson, Ricardo Gazel and Dan Rickman, in the Gaming Law Review1 (1997) noted that each compulsive gambler costs society an average of $9,469 per year in economic losses, including employment losses, debts, and welfare. Professor of Commerce and Legal Policy at the University of Illinois, John Kindt, in an article in the Drake Law Review 43 (1994), estimated the social costs (which includes the purely economic factors) to the public of a compulsive gambler to be at least $45,000 per year.

Nationally recognized expert on compulsive gambling, Valerie Lorenz, in a statement to the National Coalition against Legalized Gambling, sets the range of costs to state or federal jurisdictions for the incarceration of problem gamblers who are convicted of crimes related to their gambling habits at $20,000 to $50,000 annually.

Director of the Division on addictions at Harvard Medical School, Howard J. Shaffer, also a leading researcher on gambling, has expressed that a state’s involvement in the promotion or expansion of gambling options to the public is a conflict of interest, based upon the state’s function to protect and serve the citizenry.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999 issued recommendations on the issue of gambling. That commission called for a moratorium on the expansion of gambling in the US, particularly that of video gambling machines, which was identified as the “crack cocaine” of creating new pathological (addicted) gamblers. The Commission also noted as a recommendation that states “should refuse to allow the introduction of casino-style gambling (slots, VLT’s, etc.) into pari-mutuel facilities to financially “save” the facility, which the market has determined no longer serves the community or for the purpose of competing with other forms of gambling.

One Ohio Senator, who participated in an ad-hoc group studying a prior proposal to enact a ballot initiative to authorize VLT’s at Ohio’s horse-racing tracks, sums it up well: “The advocates for the racetracks are single-minded in their devotion to their cause….It is now clear that the focus of this group has always been to package slot machines at the race tracks under the guise of an altruistic program to provide funds (for schools, etc.). In reality it is more about private profiteering from gambling.”

We believe that, given the above referenced information regarding these machines, their easy convertibility to other forms of electronic gambling devices, and the social and economic costs that are directly associated with the “crack cocaine” of the gambling industry, House Bill 158 is much more than it is purported to be.

We would urge the members of the Ohio Legislature to not support this legislation, which may well be a “Trojan Horse” for Ohioans.

Senate Bill 7- Eminent Domain Reform

Policy RadarSenator Timothy Grendell (R)-Chesterland has introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate that fundamentally changes the procedures and processes for the seizure of private property by eminent domain in Ohio for the better.

In 2005 the US Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain could be used by federal, state and local governments to obtain property on the behalf of private developers for the purpose of revenue enhancement. They ruled in the infamous Kelo v. City of New London case that this kind of seizure constitutes a public use as allowed for in the US Constitution. Of course, this is exactly the type of seizure that the Constitutional Convention intended to prohibit by limiting them to “public use” as the constitutional debate notes clearly indicate.

Some of the major problems with the current law are-

  • The definitions of what kinds of property, the condition of the property and the locations within given areas to being condemned are VERY vague and VERY favorable to the governing bodies and developers.
  • Properties are often defined as “blighted” under bizarre and unevenly applied criteria like single bathrooms and detached garages.
  • Unlike criminal cases the burden of proof on whether the property meets the already vague definitions lies with the defendent- the property owner
  • Property owners must also prove that the value “offered” for the property is not the fair market value. Sometimes governing bodies will devalue property based on having destroyed surrounding properties.
  • Property owners cannot currently seek attorney’s fees and court costs, even if the property owner prevails in proving that the seizure was improper or an undervalue
  • Business property owners are not currently compensated for loss of business and good will when their business locations are condemned and they are forced to move.
  • The term “public use” is extremely ill-defined under current law. There have been seizures on the basis that there might be some nebulous “future unforeseen need” for a property, or to provide access to privately held areas “under development”
  • There are more than five dozen governing entities which are authorized under current law to begin property condemnation procedures. Most of these are unelected bodies which are not accountable to the voters and taxpayers.

Senate Bill 7 would require the following remedies to these problems with current law-

  • Governing bodies would be required to prove that the property meets specific requirements on use of the property, the property’s condition and location of the property in order to be eligible for condemnation.
  • Specifically defines what constitutes “blight” and requires that 90% of properties in a specifically defined area meet that definition for the neighborhood to be termed “blighted.”
  • Burden of proof on property’s fair market value is shifted to the government body seeking to condemn the property
  • Property owners can seek to recover attorney’s fees and court costs if the condemning entity cannot prove its condemnation and offer are fair and proper, within specific guidelines.
  • Business property owners can seek compensation for loss of business and the good will of customers if forced to change location.
  • Defines “public use” and specifically prohibits seizure for revenue enhancement and on behalf of private developers. Condemnations for redevelopment of tightly defined “blighted areas” is still permitted.
  • This bill would severely restrict who could begin condemnation proceedings and requires that there be a formal procedure for public input on any proposed condemnation.

This bill also requires the Governor to sign off on any condemnation for Ohio’s public universities or highways.

What Can You Do?

We believe that this bill will pass the Ohio Senate fairly easily. We have reason to believe that the bill will have some trouble passing the Ohio House of Representatives in its current robust form. The Ohio House is relying on information gathered by an appointed panel on eminent domain which was appointed to study the problems caused by the Kelo decision. The panel appears to have been constituted with members who may be too friendly to the interests of the governing bodies and developers and their recommendations did not have the kind of “teeth” that appear in Senate Bill 7. We believe these teeth are completely necessary to protect the very foundation of liberty-private property rights.

Please contact Ohio House of Representatives leadership. The Speaker is Jon Hustead, the Speaker Pro Tem is Kevin DeWine, the Majority Floor Leader is Larry Flowers, the Assistant Majority Floor Leader is Jim Carmichael, the Majority Whip is Bill Seitz, the Assistant Majority Whip is Michelle Schneider, the Minority Leader is Joyce Beatty, the Assistant Minority Leader is T. Todd Book, the Minority Whip is Steven L. Driehouse, the Assistant Minority Whip is Fred Strahorn.

Please contact your own State Senator and State Representative and ask them to support SB 7, as well.

Letters are best, phone calls are next. Faxes and emails are far too easy to delete, shred or ignore. It’s hard to ignore a letter from a taxpayer.

Report From Ohio Family Lobby Day

Every year in the spring, a coalition of Christian family policy groups come together to sponsor Ohio Family Lobby Day (OFLD). This year it took place on Wednesday April 25. More than 60 people participated in this year’s event including my wife and two of my three children. Sponsoring groups included The Institute For Principled Policy, Pro-Family Network, Ohio Christian Alliance, Family First, Homemakers For America, Citizens For Community Values, Center For Bio-Ethical Reform and many others.

The purpose of OFLD is really four-fold. First, the participants get practical experience in meeting and speaking with their elected representatives. This is absolutely necessary if Christians are to have influence in making state and national policy. Second, the participants learn the best way to be persuasive in speaking with lawmakers. It is imperative that Christians develop cordial working relationships with lawmakers coming from a variety of perspectives and political parties. Third, Christians learn the details of bills which impact their families, churches, jobs and lives. Being aware of what legislators are working on is necessary for all families, if they are to have the impact on the culture that the Christian faith mandates. Fourth, important information is returned to Christian policy groups regarding where representatives stand on legislation that they believe to be crucial to their efforts.

The OFLD participants were divided into teams of four or 5 members. Several teams had whole families as members. My own team consisted of my wife and youngest daughter, two delightful pro-life Christian activists and me. I was appointed a team leader. My oldest daughter was placed on another team. The OFLD organizers made appointments for each team with legislators. Registration began at 8:00 AM and the group opened with prayer slightly behind schedule, a little after 9:00 AM. Following this was a short instruction on lobbying followed by briefings on several bills that the group would be concentrating on.

Among the bills the group was working for were SB-16, the Community Defense Act (CDA) already passed by the Ohio Senate and now pending in the Ohio House, a continuation of abstinence education which Governor Strickland has stated he will not continue; SB-20, the Adoption Tax Credit Increase already passed by the Ohio Senate and now pending in the Ohio House; continuation of the Ed Choice Scholarship program in the budget process and charter schools, which Governor Strickland wants to end or seriously curtail; HB-47 and HB-123, two bills which would end the attempts to tax churches in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and prevent this from occurring in the future. The group also was instructed on opposition to HB-81, The Mandatory Gardasil Vaccination Bill, support for the Covenant Marriage Bill (not yet numbered), seeking co-sponsors for the Personhood bill and opposition to the Prevention First Act.

Our team met with two state Senators and had appointments with three state Representatives. Due to the State of the Judiciary speech followed immediately by House session, we met mostly with aides of the lawmakers and unfortunately, one of the representative’s aides was taken ill and so our team’s appointment was canceled. Appointments lasted about 15 minutes and each team leader tried to make sure that any team member who had something to contribute to the lobbying efforts was given the opportunity to speak. I have had some limited experience and did most of the talking, but all of my team-mates also made important contributions to the effort. Only my daughter Stephanie had very little to say, she’s only 12, but she did manage to charm her way into a tour of the Capitol and she was very attentive to what was being said and done by the adults.

A fine lunch was provided as part of the cost of registration. The lobbyists-in-training were treated by a talk from Representative Bill Batchelder who asked us to not let our lobbying efforts be a once-a-year event but that we continue our work throughout the legislative session. We also were treated to a surprise speaker- former Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, who gave a very inspirational talk on our efforts to have an influence in policymaking.

Between meetings some team members took advantage of the opportunity to watch the legislative process in action from the galleries while others took the time to explore the Capitol’s many historical displays, or to study legislative talking points.

At the end of the day, the teams were asked to fill out a de-briefing form which asked important questions regarding how the lobbying efforts were received, what legislative efforts the lawmakers supported and which ones they opposed. Thus invaluable information was gathered about which representatives support or oppose important bills and give insight on their approachability on future efforts.

My family’s OFLD experience was very positive. As a homeschooling parent, we believe our children gained a priceless lesson on how policy-related things are done, they got to see their parents in action trying to make Ohio a better place to live and they got experience in how to do the job themselves in the future. My oldest daughter thinks she might like to work in the state legislature, something she had never thought about before. This was well worth the registration fee. Come join us next spring and bring the kids!

The Institute For Principled Policy Opposes HB 81- Mandatory Gardisil HPV Vaccination

Policy RadarThe Institute For Principled Policy is working to oppose HB 81. This bill will revise the Ohio Revised Code to require girls who will be entering the sixth grade to begin the three injection vaccination cycle with the Gardasil® vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Under the bill the cycle of injections would have to be completed before girls could enter the seventh grade.

  • While the Policy Institute applauds the research efforts that make it possible to be vaccinated against the HPV virus, which is a sexually transmitted disease, we must oppose the effort to make it a mandatory injection for very young girls. There are several reasons for our opposition. Among these are;

    • In light of Governor Ted Strickland’s recent decision to halt all abstinence education funding, it makes little sense to remove a strong behavioral barrier to STD’s like HPV and replace that barrier with a porous and temporary biochemical barrier.
    • Cervical cancer and genital warts are terrible diseases but a significant portion of the former and all of the latter can be prevented by avoiding exposure to HPV through sexual abstinence until marriage by both spouses. The argument that the contraction of HPV is due to accidental contact, like polio, smallpox, measles, etc. does not stand up under scrutiny. HPV is easily preventable without vaccination, just like all other STD’s.
    • Gardasil® advertising leaves the strong impression that it is a panacea against HPV caused cancers and genital warts. But the technical literature distributed by Merck, the sole manufacturer of the vaccine, indicates that it is effective only against 4 of about 30 strains of the HPV virus seen in humans. These 4 strains account for only about 70% of virus caused uterine cancers and about 90% of virus caused genital warts.
    • The Institute For Principled Policy stands for biblical economics and therefore encourages successful businesses ventures which include a healthy profit. That being said, we believe it is unethical to structure the cost of a vaccination ($120 for each of the three injections in the series, a total of $360) which is being touted as a barrier against a potentially deadly STD so that it offsets the costs of lawsuits stemming from bad business decisions based on poorly conducted safety studies for other drugs that Merck has marketed (Vioxx®).
    • Furthermore, we believe that it is unethical for a company to mount an expensive and massive lobbying effort on a state-by-state basis designed to co-opt state legislators in an effort to create a guaranteed market through mandatory vaccination on a product which has essentially been awarded a monopoly. This strategy could mean multiple tens of billions of dollars to Merck in the first year of such a program alone.
    • We also believe that it is unethical to attempt to gain a back door indemnity for a product which has no long-term safety data but is nonetheless being touted for children as young as nine. Merck’s attempts to make the vaccination mandatory are at least partly based on federal legislation protecting corporations from damages for death or illness from mandatory vaccinations. No data exists on the long term health effects of Gardasil® so it is impossible to know how it may effect fertility, immune function, carcinogenic activity, neurological effects, et.
    • There is no data on the length of time of the effectiveness of the vaccine. It is conceivable that a child of 16 vaccinated at nine or ten years-old and deprived of an education showing abstinence as the only fool-proof method of STD prevention could become sexually active and be left without even the already incomplete protection of Gardasil®.
    • One of the serious risks of any vaccination of this type is an increased risk for Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a paralytic auto-immune disorder. It is caused by antibodies which have been tricked into recognizing nerve insulating myelin as a foreign invader, causing them to attack the myelin. Gardasil® is only different in that it may have a higher than normal incidence. According to some watchdog groups girls receiving Gardasil® have a higher than normal incidence of fainting and neurological complaints ranging from numbness and loss of sensation to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
    • While we applaud Merck’s decision to not use mercury (Thimerosal) as a preservative, we cannot do the same regarding their choice to use an amorphous aluminium phosphate adjuvant. Aluminium is an important part of the activity of many vaccinations but is also a neurotoxin and accumulates as a heavy-metal in the human body.

    We urge all Ohioans to contact your state Senators and Representatives and respectfully request that they oppose mandatory administration of Gardasil®. Please see the “Contact Your Representatives” page for links to the Ohio Senate and House

  • Sign Up For Ohio Family Lobby Day!

    OHIO FAMILY LOBBY DAY

    April 25, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio

    Decisions are being made for you, on your behalf many times without your knowledge. Meet with your elected officials and or their staff face to face. Discuss issues and legislation of interest to the Christian family that are pending or proposed to the Ohio General Assembly.

    Our civic responsibility does not end with our vote on Election Day. We hired these men and women to represent our families and us now we must hold them accountable.

    Issues and Legislation before the 127th Ohio General Assembly:

      Covenant Marriage
      Adoption Reform & Foster Parenting
      Personhood Legislation
      Community Defense Act
      Abstinence Funding, School Vouchers Plus many more

    Receive training and information about the issues that concern you and your family.

    Meet like-minded concerned Christian citizens who want to make a difference for such a time as this.

    Sponsored By Pro-Family Network, Ohio Christian Alliance, Citizens for Community Values, Family First and Institute for Principled Policy, Citizen-USA Newspaper

    Printable copy of a flyer that you can distribute.

    Printable copy of the application form. Please print one out, complete it and fax it to 614-386-9804 or mail it with a check to the address indicated on the form.

    Or you can pay your registration online! Click here to go to our store “Events” category. The Ohio Family Lobby Day choices are there. You can use your Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover Card or Pay Pal account to pay the fee. Then download a copy of the registration form and fax it to 614-386-9804. Indicate that your fees were paid online on the form. Then you’re registered. It’s easy.

    Ohio Family Lobby Day

    OHIO FAMILY LOBBY DAY
    April 25, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio

    Decisions are being made for you, on your behalf many times without your knowledge. Meet with your elected officials and or their staff face to face. Discuss issues and legislation of interest to the Christian family that are pending or proposed to the Ohio General Assembly.

    Our civic responsibility does not end with our vote on Election Day. We hired these men and women to represent our families and us now we must hold them accountable.

    Issues and Legislation before the 127th Ohio General Assembly:

      Covenant Marriage
      Banning Homosexual Adoption & Foster Parenting
      Total Abortion Ban
      Community Defense Act
      Abstinence Funding, School Vouchers Plus many more

    Receive training and information about the issues that concern you and your family.

    Meet like-minded concerned Christian citizens who want to make a difference for such a time as this.

    Sponsored By Pro-Family Network, Ohio Christian Alliance, Citizens for Community Values, Family First and Institute for Principled Policy, Citizen-USA Newspaper

    Click here to see a printable copy of a flyer that you can distribute

    Click here for a printable copy of the application form. Please print one out, complete it and fax it to 614-386-9804

    To pay your registration online click here to go to our store “Events” category. The Ohio Family Lobby Day choices are there. You can use your Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover Card or Pay Pal account to pay the fee. Then download a copy of the registration form and fax it to 614-386-9804. Indicate that your fees were paid online on the form. Then you’re registered. It’s easy.