It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Here we go again. Perhaps it’s only a sad indication as to what Columbus really thinks of us, that we’re once again discussing a proposal for state-run gambling. Our government has got to either think we’re stupid enough not to remember Issue 3, or that we’re lazy enough not to care. Either way, I’m not impressed.



Regardless of numerous failed attempts to pass off personal greed as an opportunity for educational funding, Governor Strickland now thinks the answer is to put Keno machines in Ohio bars. And the best part is that their plan doesn’t include any kind of public vote, since (get ready for this) Keno isn’t really gambling. It’s like a lottery, which is already allowed by state law.


Brilliant! Next time you get pulled over after a night of drinking, be sure to try that logic with the police: “You can’t arrest me for D.U.I. officer, because I was drinking wine, and wine is essentially grape juice, and driving under the influence of grape juice isn’t illegal.” I’m sure they’ll see things your way.



I’m embarrassed that we, as a state, are represented by someone--anyone--who would think that this is not only legal, but a good idea. Didn’t the state just spend a lot of time and effort removing a different kind of electronic gaming machine from a lot of Cleveland bars? I guess the problem wasn’t the gambling, it was that the state wasn’t getting its cut of the profits.


Once again, I feel the need to point out that I’m not against gambling. I’m actually all for having hotels and casinos line both sides of the Cuyahoga River in the flats. What I’m against, however, is the State of Ohio tripping over quarters to pick up a dime.



Remember, this isn’t about letting the gambling genie out of the bottle. We can already bet on horse races on the East side, play blackjack and poker in the Flats, and purchase instant lotto tickets at a thousand different vending machines. We already have legalized gambling. The real problem is that the State of Ohio wants to keep pretending that it has some sort of false sense of morality as they continue to be completely incompetent in maximizing their returns.



Governor Strickland has suggested that the benefit of having these machines would be an additional $73 million in revenue for Ohio education. So my question is this: If $73 million is good, wouldn’t $100 million be better? Why not $150 million? And why just focus on revenue, why not add jobs; why not boost tourism?



Look, I’m not by any means suggesting that casinos will solve all of our financial issues. I’m merely suggesting that there is definitely a better way. And if you’re already dancing with the devil, you might as well let him buy you dinner. My point is this: according to their website, the Michigan Gaming Control Board reported a revenue of over $160 million dollars in wagering taxes collected during the year 2007. A nominal fee, considering that the three casinos took in an estimated $1.3 billion in total adjusted gross receipts.



In addition to the wagering tax, don’t forget that between the three casinos we’re talking about thousands of additional jobs, meaning additional payroll taxes, as well as new hotels, which increase room tax. And don’t forget that each casino pays an annual license fee (more revenue), which pays for the Gaming Control Board (more jobs).



And that’s just three casinos in one city. I’m guessing that Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati could all sustain at least one or two. But another key is not limiting the licensing. Let the free market determine what gets built and where. What killed Issue 3 wasn’t the slot machines themselves, but rather, that only a few hand-picked businessmen would be profiting from the legislation.



What’s the point of trying to increase tax revenue, if you give it right back in tax abatements and government appropriated land deals? Do you really think that if an Ohio Gaming Commission announced an open bid for a limited number of casino licenses, it would have to offer some sort of subsidy to attract potential bidders? You’d have more ownership groups step forward in one week than the total number that bid for the new Cleveland Browns franchise.



Look, we can set the limits wherever we want, but there are more than a few successful operational models out there to choose from. However, there is also a definite time limit for action. As the surrounding states increase their acceptance, the market will quickly become saturated. And once the music stops, anyone without a chair is pretty much out of luck.


The State of Ohio reminds me of the fat lady who slowly picks away at a cake in the refrigerator pretending that she’s sticking to her diet. We all know that she’s going to finish the thing off eventually, why not just cut a big slice, drop the guilt trip, and enjoy the calories?

Read More on Perspective
Volume 4, Issue 4, Posted 9:01 PM, 02.07.2008