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Friday, February 01, 2008

Shoot The Moon, Gov. Strickland: Open Ohio To Casinos And Sports Betting

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Gov. Ted Strickland hopes to stave off a looming state budget crisis by alllowing the Ohio Lottery to place electronic keno machines in bars. But if we're going to bet on vice, why go only halfway to hell. Open the state to casinos like Indiana, where Ohio's next-door neighbor generates $650 million of its budget from slots, roulette, poker and dice tables. Scatter the casinos around Ohio -- Steubenville, Cleveland and downtown Cincinnati. Other cities, too. Rake in the the money, and create some jobs.

How important are Indiana's 11 casinos as money pumps to that state's treasury? Officials report they have been "among Indiana's mos stable sources of revenue. And lawmakers have turned to gambling again and again when they've needed to balance the budget or cut taxes." That word comes from the Louisville Courier-Journal, where Indiana's luck at the gaming tables is envied and may soon be copied. Kentucky's new Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear campaigned on a pledge to open his state to casinos, and is pressing ahead.

Indiana's casinos are that state's fourth largest source of revenue -- after the taxes on sales, businesses and personal income. Strickland unveiled his electronic lottery gambling plan a few days before the Super Bowl, when nearly everyone is in a betting pool. The governor says there is a "vast difference between what we are proposing and what has been proposed" -- meaning prior efforts to put casinos and slots in Ohio. On the vast differences, he is wrong, I think. He hopes to make gambling revenue a more important part of the state budget. If that is the plan -- then why not legalize slots and table games and drop all bluenose pretensions. There is an old saying: "There is but one good throw upon the dice, which is to throw them away." But Ohio is picking them up, and if we're not going to throw them away, we may as well roll 'em . . .

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