Ohio, casinos and the Plain Dealer: 10/15/06 and today

On October 15, 2006, as part of my 57 Reasons to Vote No on Issue 3 (aka Ohio Learn and Earn, aka another casino ballot issue to change our state constitution), I wrote:

…I’m dropping the Plain Dealer subscription I’ve had longer than I can even remember (at least 13 years) as a result of the endorsement. However, I cannot emphasize enough that I’m doing so, not because the PD supports Issue 3. I’m doing so because their endorsement is insupportable, just on the basis of what it states.

The paper has no excuse for not being harder on this state. Those five men named on the mast head, including a chief marketing person, are the brains of the paper and people look to them. If the reasoning represented in that editorial is the best the PD editors can do, then their opinion of what readers should buy from them – as to why to vote a certain way, and the low threshold that the paper is willing to construct for why an issue or a candidate should be supported, or not supported for that matter, have both sunk below what I expect, even at a minimum, from a paper its size in a city that needs strong leadership and brave reporting.

…I’m going to miss it. I’ve defended it. I’ve wanted to make it better by just writing letters to the editor or getting an op-ed in. But the endorsements this year have failed to demonstrate any consistency in how they are reasoned.

Endorsements should be where the brains of the paper shine and show why the editors are the editors, are leading and should lead. The Plain Dealer has failed me as a reader on all accounts.

I know who wrote that 2006 editorial and I don’t know where Brent Larkin stood on it.  But his editorial today, “Ohio will lose if casino issue passes,” represents to me what should have been the editorial on Issue 3 in 2006.  Here are his reasons for rejecting the casino issue this year:

-it’s a risk, and it would be worth-taking at a certain price but not the price being offered this year; in 2006, the PD also argued that it was a risk but decided the risk was worth taking at the 2006 Issue 3 price (voters rejected Issue 3)

-Larkin says the price to be paid under the current initiative is not the right price because:

1. It’s bad public policy because of the monopoly nature of the plan. (Many of us argued it was bad public policy because of the monopoly nature of the plan in 2006.)

2. The issue doesn’t require the casino owner to pay high enough taxes and licensing fees, especially in comparison to how this is handled in other states. (Same argument was used by many of us in 2006.)

3. Larkin reserves the most ire for Gov. Ted Strickland and the racino/slots at racetracks piece of the deal.

Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks will pay $65 million each to build slot machine parlors on their properties. The racetrack deal, engineered by Gov. Ted Strickland and his minions in the legislature, represented public policy at its worst.

Jeffrey Hooke, a Maryland-based casino expert and investment banker, said a fair price for each casino license would be in the $300 million to $500 million range. Hooke described the governor’s deal with the racetracks as “the greatest taxpayer ripoff in Ohio history.”

Strickland has made a mess of Ohio’s gambling climate. Any governor with a modicum of vision could have seen this coming and pushed a ballot issue that required a bidding process for casinos and racetrack slot machines.

I have my own issues with Strickland and his caving to casinos and slots but that’s a whole ‘other blog, let alone single entry.

4. Casinos backers may spend up to $50 million to push their arguments.  In 2006, that was probably the very first thing I complained about and I wrote at least a few blog posts about the craziness of the money being spent just to try to get our constitution changed on behalf of a few who already are “haves,” just not in Ohio.

Larkin’s conclusion:

Their points are well taken, but they don’t overcome evidence arguing that Issue 3 just isn’t a good deal for Ohio’s taxpayers. Vote against it. 

Mr. Larkin, I’m thrilled that you’ve written this column and the PD has published it.  And I feel affirmed that your arguments against the casino initiative this November echo everything many of us said and wrote in 2006 (and last year, while we’re at it) and continue to believe.  But I will never understand how that 2006 editorial in support of Issue 3 was considered to be strong enough in its logic to be published, given that, if anything, our situation is even more dire now and in need of risk-taking, of some kind, though not the casino kind.

7 thoughts on “Ohio, casinos and the Plain Dealer: 10/15/06 and today

  1. Pingback: Round-up of Issue 3 posts to date « Buckeye RINO

  2. Hey Joel – I hear you – you make good points. For me, it’s always been about the effect at a societal level – it’s not a moral thing at all, it’s that we know from many many reports that casinos rely on the population within something like a 50 mile radius to keep them going – who is within that range in the cities in Ohio looking to build one? Yeah – the people who can least afford it and who we can least afford to risk it. We’re already suffering under a crush of needs related to job loss etc. There’s just no way that casinos will help that – no matter how many jobs are created, because of the people the casinos will depend upon to keep them busy.

  3. Daniel – believe me, you know I love this topic and so many others – I really miss the engaged blogging I like to think is my hallmark but the time just isn’t there. 😦 I will try but I’m glad others are fighting the fight too. Thanks.

  4. I have to say that even though I tend to disagree with you on the general idea on gambling in Ohio, I do agree with you that issue 3 is a bad deal for the state. I’m sure you know more about the actual license fees than I do. I couldn’t tell you how much is enough, but I have read enough to figure out that Penn National is paying about 50% in taxes at their casino in Pennsylvania, and they make a ton of money while paying those taxes. Is there some reason they should only pay 30% here? That extra 20% adds up. By their own projections it means they will take home $400 million a year more than if they paid the higher tax rate. The state really needs that money, and as much as I hate to see the business leave the state, I don’t think there’s any way we should put a permanent law in place that give away the business like issue 3 does.

  5. Hi Jill!

    Aside from the fact that according to you, the PD messed up there endorsements, as a lifelong resident {Except for a couple of years that consisted of finding myself}, I have seen very little ever happen here that makes me want to stay.

    I am staying however. The idea being thrown around of a 1,000 room Hotel-Casino could be the most powerful thing I have seen yet.

    I lived in Vegas back in the 80’s as I tried to find myself, and I can tell you this;

    The energy and buzz created by a large casino is pretty darn amazing. The $$’s that are leaving Ohio every day to go to Windsor, Detroit, and even PA and WV are too hard to ignore, as Cleveland continues it’s downward slide.

    I think it’s worth a shot. After all, we all have choices. We can drink booze or not drink booze. We can choose to bet on a horse, or not bet on a horse. We can choose to blow our money in a slot machine. Or not.

    Cleveland needs something that brings people downtown-from our dwindling local population, to folks from surrounding states.

    Joel Libava

  6. You wrote:

    “I have my own issues with Strickland and his caving to casinos and slots but that’s a whole ‘other blog, let alone single entry.”

    I’m hoping I get a chance to read a whole other JMZ-authored blog, or at least a JMZ-authored single entry on that topic. You’ve been so busy though, I guess that’s wishful thinking on my part.

    Thanks for posting this, though.

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