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Casinos will not bring any economic or societal relief to Ohio.

For the fifth time Ohio politicians and lobbyist are trying to get Ohio citizens to vote for legalization of gambling and affirm a monopoly deal to make two casino owners richer. The ballot’s agenda is hiding behind false opportunities for job creation and tax revenue.

The only folks benefiting from this deal will be Penn National Gaming a big time gaming corporation from Pennsylvania and Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland cavaliers. Each developer will have to pay a one time fee of $50 million and a continuing tax rate of 33%. That’s not much of a commitment to an economy that is in a recession considering the revenue the casinos will actually generate. Just to give an ideal; the Las Vegas strip generated $6.1 billion in 2008; Atlantic City gained $4.5 billion. This just shows the possibilities none of which Ohio citizens would be reaping.

The state estimates that the casinos will produce $643 million in annual tax revenue. However a great deal of this revenue will only replace that lost from the closing of local restaurants, bars and hotels due to the diversion of business.  

Ohioans should be willing to challenge the claims by gaming proponents. They say Ohio is to see a boost of 34,000 jobs and this huge $651 million annual tax revenue (slightly higher than the state’s estimate), these Casinos are supposed to be an economic antidote. However, how sure is this antidote, a recent study by the Rockefeller Institute showed a 7.4 decline in gambling revenue nationwide from 2008-2009.

The societal ailments that partner with casinos have been ignored by proponents of issue 3. Studies prove that casinos help with short term job growth, although, not necessarily for the locals. Casinos need professionals at their tables and as security. Out of towners do not have stake in Ohio. Long term effects set in around the third year and are of more importance. Gambling contributes to high social cost including; broken homes, bankruptcies, addiction (drugs included), and crime. Studies have shown that casinos increase the rate of all crimes except murder.

As for the employment opportunities, of those 34,000 jobs 19,000 will be in construction. Construction is a skill specific employment and is temporary. It is very likely that a corporation like Penn National Gaming will come to town with their own lot of contractors and construction workers, so those 19,000 slots won’t all be for jobless Ohioans.

Speaking of joblessness, as of September 2009, Ohio’s unemployment rate was 9.7. I used Las Vegas and Atlantic City as examples earlier, they are the leading earners. So based on the Issue 3 supporter’s argument unemployment should be low in these neighborhoods. If so then the following promises a hell of an augur for Ohioans. In Nevada the unemployment rate as of September 2009 was 13.9; in Carson City the unemployment rate was 12.1 and in good ole Las Vegas the unemployment rate was a spectacular 13.1- in 2008 Las Vegas lead in gaming earnings with $6.1 billion.

In New Jersey the unemployment rate was 9.6 in August 2009. Atlantic County had a rate of 11.8 with Atlantic City exceeding that with a rate of 12.9- but they rank number two in gaming earnings. Let’s just check on Chicago: here they have nine dock sites (riverboat docking) and still managed a pathetic unemployment rate of 9.0% in October of 2009.

If  Issue 3 were to pass then Ohio would get four casinos. Gilbert would have one in Cleveland and another in Cincinnati. Penn National Gaming would have Columbus and Toledo. Presently, Lucas County (Toledo) has an unemployment rate of 12.4, Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) has a rate of 9.1, Hamilton County (Cincinnati) 9.6 and Franklin County (Columbus) a modest 8.8. What will these numbers be like if we perform like the top cities, where employment takes a back seat to blackjack?

What about those remaining 15,000 jobs? They will all be low wage and tip earning positions, although long term, initially they won’t be filled by Ohioans. Casinos don’t just hire anyone.

I would like to further point out to the local job seekers that slot machines are replacing table games. In 2001 the Illinois Gaming Board reported $23,717 in gross receipts from table games, while in the same thirty day period electronic gaming devises generated $123,165,000 in receipts. As recent as August 2009, of the nine dock sites no site had more than 34 tables (Elgin having the most at 34 and Alton the least at 18 tables), totaling $14,548 in receipts. On the other hand there are over 10,265 electronic gaming devises contributing a sum of $107.5 million.

The job rap seems to be nothing other than pusillanimous propaganda, as for the tax claim, the average citizen doesn’t understand what any of that means. Ohioans must protect their economy, local businesses, the Ohio constitution and dignity.

                                         Sulaiman Basir