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Adding Totals From Ohio's First Full Year of Casino Gambling

The State of Ohio
Friday, April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm
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Libertarians lose in court; looking back at first full year of casino gambling in Ohio.

The Ohio Supreme Court has denied a request from a Libertarian candidate and sided with the Secretary of State, who disqualified him from the ballot last month. Ohio’s hopes for one of the two major party presidential conventions in 2016 have dwindled slightly - Cleveland and Cincinnati are still on the list of six cities as possible sites for the 2016 Republican National Convention, but Columbus was eliminated. And just hours after it passed, Gov. John Kasich signed the $2.4 billion capital budget.

This November will mark five years since Ohio voters decided to approve a ballot issue legalizing casino gambling in casinos, built and owned by Penn National and Cleveland developer Dan Gilbert's company Rock Caesars. The $61 million campaign was the most expensive one for a ballot issue in Ohio history, with supporters spending more than $47 million dollars. The opponents of the casino plan were religious and conservative groups along with Cleveland developer Jeff Jacobs, owner of the Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia. But the backers of the casino issue outspent the opponents 4-1.

In this first full year of operations, the four casinos have reported revenue just under $839 million - that number will go up with March numbers next week. But that annual figure is far short of the $1.9 billion that was predicted in 2009 by the Ohio Department of Taxation. With casino gambling passing the one-year mark, it’s time for some questions about how it’s going in Ohio, and specifically on why the initial projections haven’t been met – and if they ever will. Ameet Patel, the general manager of the Hollywood Casino Columbus, which is owned by Penn National, takes some of those questions.

On the other side is the conservative group the Ohio Roundtable. Vice president Rob Walgate is a former gambling addict who’s outspoken on the issue of gambling and particularly on its place in the Ohio Constitution.

A study in late 2012 showed that there were an estimated 250,000 Ohioans who had gambling problems. Two percent of casino tax revenues go to the state’s problem gamblers fund. But a coalition of state agencies is trying to stop a particular group of potential gamblers from needing help with an unusual campaign - bright yellow billboards with a weird picture, and video ads with bizarre situations, like a guy in a crop top and shorts dancing on a restaurant table. And all feature the website "Ilostabet.org". Sandy Lesko-Mounts with the Ohio Lottery Commission talks about the campaign.

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