Four times. November 4 will mark four times in the last 18 years that gambling advocates have tried to persuade Ohio citizens to allow them to set up to play in the Buckeye state. Normally, in a ballgame, three strikes is an “out”. Three swings of the electoral bat, and the gamblers have a perfect average: .000. That’s three “NO” votes, by resounding margins, one each in 1990, 1996 and 2006. Now they are swinging again.
This time the bat (or should I say bait?) is a single “resort destination” casino which, if approved, would be located right in the middle of southwestern Ohio farm country: Chester Township in Clinton County. Why there? Easy access to I-71, and within 50 miles of three major population centers (Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati).
The team this time trying to break out and be the winners of the Gambling World (Ohio) Series is MyOhioNow, a collaboration of a retired podiatrist and a business liquidator from Cleveland, and a professional gambler from Minnesota with a history of taking the money and running. With tens of millions of dollars invested in this initiative, mainly in advertising, from television to drop mailers, they seek to assure the suckers (er, citizens) of Ohio that the odds are stacked in their favor and not the House’s.
Promises of jobs, jobs, jobs and money, money, money have flowed as freely as cheap alcohol to a high roller at the blackjack table. When one reads the material supporting their claims, one reads the words “up to” before each promise of money and jobs…”up to” meaning “we won’t be held to any hard numbers, but we will be using them to fool you into supporting this con job.”
The Institute for Principled Policy has already posted a position paper on the Biblical admonitions against gambling, which can be found here. Focus on the Family has an excellent brochure about the social costs of legalized gambling here.
Additionally, a study conducted by the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions shows that the license for this casino is worth $1 billion on the open market, but that MyOhioNow will get it for a mere $15 million, all of which is reimbursed to them upon startup by the state. Additionally, there is nothing, either in law or in the proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution, to keep this license from being immediately sold to another interest (think Eastern Shawnee tribe).
If Ohio voters fall for this bluff, then Ohio will become, for purposes of federal gambling laws, what is known as a Class III state. This is one of the three pieces of the puzzle that the Eastern Shawnee tribe need to open a casino in the state. One other piece is the recognition of a land claim to establish a reservation (and this tribe already has or is in process of having intergovernmental agreements with numerous cities in Ohio, such as Monroe, Botkins, and Lordstown). The last piece is two signatures: one from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and one from Ohio’s Governor. All of these have a realistic possibility of being obtained by the tribe in the near future.
A peculiarity about Indian tribal casinos is their immunity from taxation, at the federal, state and local levels. As a sovereign nation, they cannot be taxed by another government. That makes a tribal casino’s tax rate ZERO. Accidentally, according to MyOhioNow, language was written into the amendment proposal of Issue 6 to set the tax rate for their casino at the lesser rate of either 25% or equal to any other casino that would operate in Ohio. Should voters approve Issue 6, and a tribal casino be authorized, long gone will be the promised “estimated” annual payday for all of Ohio’s 88 counties: Zero divided by 88 is still Zero.
Conveniently, Lakes Entertainment, one of the MyOhioNow partners, specializes in managing Indian tribal casinos in other states. This sounds less like a coincidence or an accident and more like a plan being executed by a savvy operator who is looking to fleece a mark who can’t read the cards.
Time to fold MyOhioNow’s hand and vote a resounding, resonating, reverberating “NO” on State Issue 6 on November 4th.
Then, on November 5th, let’s get to working on an initiative to make sure that Ohio voters don’t have to say “NO” again.