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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kentucky May Trump Ohio: New Dem Guv-Elect Wants Casino Near Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Kentucky Gov.-elect Steve Beshear, a Democrat who defeated a scandal-plagued Republican incumbent on Tuesday, is already talking about opening his state to casino gambling. And Beshear thinks a good place to stick the slot machines and roulette wheels is right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. They would operate in a metro area market that has easy access to the Buckeye State. Beshear sees an opening for his state to rake in some gambling lucre because Ohio has repeatedly said no dice to casinos.

After Cleveland, Cincinnati is Ohio's 2nd largest metro area. It borders Northern Kentucky, which also is included in the Cincy metro region. Several bridges, including four that support interstate highways, along with a ferry that crosses the Ohio River, stitch the Kentucky and Ohio sides together. How tight is the stitching? The metro airport is on the Kentucky side.

Beshear is already talking up legalized gaming. He told Joe Webb, a reporter for Channel 12, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, that it makes sense to put a casino in Northern Kentucky.

"Certainly, Northern Kentucky has to be a place to consider for the location of a casino because of the urban area and because of all the traffic and all the people."

Webb pointed out that during the runup to Election Day there was a large "Vote for Beshear" campaign sign stationed outside Turfway Park, the horseracing track owned by Harrah's, the casino company. The rack is a 10-minute or less drive south of downtown Cincinnati on I-75, and Harrah's wants to put a $200 million hotel-casino complex at the site. Webb's story is here.

The larger implication, of course, is that the gaming industry is going to draw in customers and millions of dollars from Ohioans who live in a state that officially has said no, no, no to casinos. But Beshear senses that Ohioans will drive a few miles for some action that is illegal at home. And Kentucky pockets a jackpot from gambling taxes.

Another large casino, Argosy, already operates a riverboat on the Ohio River that is based in Lawrenceburg. Ind., about 30 minutes from downtown Cincinnati. It is usually filled with Ohioans, and is described as the most profitable casino outside Las Vegas in the U.S. Perhaps, the State of Ohio is missing the boat. Maybe the time has finally come to legalize casino gambling.

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