Ohio Issue 3, the latest attempt to manipulate Ohio voters into granting a state constitutional favor to gambling interests, deserves a "no" vote just as previous attempts have received.
The new proposal is simple to understand and simple to reject.
Gambling interests want approval of an amendment to the state constitution, the basic framework of state law, to allow casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.
Issue 3 is a handful of aces for the gambling companies, but a lousy hand for Ohio taxpayers.
- The proposal would allow a tax of only 33 percent on casinos' gross revenue. That rate could never be increased - even if, as we think is likely, Ohioans in the future decide they deserve a larger "cut" of the proceeds. It would, after all, be set in the state constitution. That means the owners would be leaving Ohio with 67 percent of the earnings of the casinos. It is the same as if Ohioans simply took two-thirds of their discretionary income and mailed it directly to the gaming companies.
- Upfront licensing fees of $50 million per casino would be required. But the amendment specifies that the money could be used only "to support job training programs ..." Locking state government into a $200 million job training program when Columbus needs money desperately for other purposes would not be wise. Further, there are plenty of studies and examples in the market that find $50 million per license to be undervalued. There is nothing that prohibits the license buyer from turning around and selling a license for a profit, either. There's nothing in the proposal that requires the casinos ever be built once licenses are bought.
- About one-third of the tax proceeds would be earmarked for schools. But the amendment requires that gambling revenue must be in addition to any other education "funding obligations of the state." Again, government would be denied important budget flexibility.
- So greedy are the gambling interests that the amendment bans all other casino gambling - including that by charitable organizations to raise money for worthy causes.
The point that must be remembered most is that never, ever, should the state constitution be amended to serve the needs of a few private interests.
Do not latch onto a promise of a quick fix for the state's budgetary and employment woes. The promise is hollow.
We join prudent, objective critics of the proposal in urging Ohio voters to reject it. We strongly recommend a "no" vote on Ohio Issue 3.