Anti-gambling groups keep up the fight

By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer

Rob Walgate hasn’t given up the fight against gambling in Ohio.

The vice president of Strongsville-based American Policy Roundtable — perhaps the most vocal anti-gambling group in the state — continues to bash the casino and racino industries.

It’s been one year since the first casino opened, and operators are falling well short of the revenue and job promises made in 2009 to Ohio residents when they voted to allow four Las Vegas-style casinos in the state, Walgate said.

“It’s always been laughable to read what they predicted they would do for this state in terms of jobs, in terms of economic development and in terms of revenue,” he said.

Another gambling opponent, the Ohio Council of Churches in Columbus, agreed.

“We tried to point all that out beforehand, but people don’t want to listen, and now we’re seeing the consequences of not listening,” said the Rev. Rebecca J. Tollefson, executive director of the group.

Before voters approved the casinos in 2009, the Ohio Department of Taxation estimated annual revenue from four casinos at $1.9 billion a year.

But state budget makers are now projecting about $958 million for this year.

Also, a much-touted University of Cincinnati study estimated the casinos would employ 7,500. Today, Ohio’s four sites have a total of 6,200 workers.

Walgate said casino operators “bought the election fair and square” with a $50 million-plus campaign, he said.

“We said all along they knew it didn’t matter if they hit those numbers because there’s no enforcement or punishment if they don’t hit the numbers,” Walgate said. “It didn’t matter what they said. They could have promised a third day to every weekend.”

Casino operators have said the revenue figures are lower than first predicted because of unforeseen competition from racinos, which hadn’t been approved in 2009, and Internet and sweepstakes cafes.

“They are going to make excuses,” Walgate said.

Meanwhile, American Policy Roundtable continues its legal fight against the deal struck between state leaders and the owners of the seven horse tracks to allow racinos in the state.

Racinos offer slots-like video lottery terminals under the direction of the Ohio Lottery Commission.

American Policy Roundtable, which calls the deal unconstitutional, lost its initial legal effort. The case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court last month.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.


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