Ohio considers casino proposal

Tara Pringle

Ohio drafts bill for casino licenses

Credit: Andrew popik

The state of Ohio may soon be gambling on its future, if a casino proposal gets passed at the state legislature.

Recently, many government officials have been making a push for casinos to be allowed in Ohio. Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, Ohio House Rep. Chris Redfern and others are considering casino gambling as a way to help Ohio’s economy.

Currently, the only gambling allowed in Ohio is horse-track betting, bingo and the state-sponsored lottery. Ohio’s Constitution would have to be amended to allow casinos to operate.

The issue has been on the ballot twice in the past 15 years, in 1990 and 1996, and was voted down both times.

“If anybody’s against it, they should vote ‘no,’” Redfern said. “That’s the beauty of democracy.”

Redfern said other cities, such as Detroit, with casinos have been successful.

Detroit has three casinos, which grossed almost $1.2 billion dollars in 2004, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.

Recently, Shawnee Indians have proposed building a casino in Lordstown, outside of Youngstown. They project revenues of $300 million and estimate the casino will bring 3,000 jobs to the area, according to an article in the Plain Dealer.

American Indian casinos are different from casinos owned by developers. According to an Associated Press article, American Indian casinos are not required to pay state taxes, nor give the state any part of the revenue because tribes are sovereign nations.

Redfern is drafting a bill that would link casinos and higher education.

He said in a month, the bill would be ready to go to committee and then the legislature would vote on it. If the majority of the legislature approves, it will go on the November ballot.

The bill would create seven casino licenses for Ohio, Redfern said. The licenses would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. From there, developers would find the best location. Under this plan, casinos would only be in places where residents had voted for them.

Redfern said the bill would also create a scholarship program for high school seniors in Ohio that would pay for tuition at a 2-year or 4-year Ohio college or university. Students graduating in the top 10 percent of their classes who don’t already have scholarships would be eligible.

Patricia Myers, director of governmental relations at Kent State, said funding for higher education is the key objective.

“I’m not in favor of gambling,” Myers said. “But any extra funds are important to higher education. Whatever funds, whether from casinos or taxes. One of the most important things is supporting higher education.

“It’s the only thing to help the economy,” Myers said.

Many Kent State students are split over the issue.

Lisa Stoddard, freshman education major, doesn’t gamble at all.

“I don’t think casinos are a good idea,” Stoddard said. “We can get the money from other means and people can be entertained in other ways. I just don’t think it’s necessary.”

Krystal Harris, sophomore sports management major, said she occasionally goes to a casino in West Virginia, where the gambling age is 18. Harris said she is in favor of having casinos in Ohio.

“It would be much more convenient,” Harris said. “It would bring more money into Ohio, so I don’t see why not.”

Other students said casinos would be beneficial as well.

“I’ve heard a lot of people are going to Detroit for gambling,” said Matthew Kelsey, sophomore English and history major. “If that’s true, Cleveland’s missing out on a golden opportunity.”

Kelsey, who’s from Florida, said he has seen the benefits of having casinos.

“I’ve seen how much improvement comes to an area,” Kelsey said. “It’s been profitable.”

Contact enterprise reporter Tara Pringle at [email protected]