Is gambling on future of education a good idea?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Apparently, some Ohio lawmakers are not listening to the citizens of the state.

The special interest groups hoping to expand legalized gambling in Ohio will not take "no" for an answer. Again, the issue of video gambling at the state's seven race tracks has surfaced.

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A plan, unveiled during a private House Republican caucus last week, would send half of the proceeds to a pair of college scholarship programs, 10 percent to early childhood initiatives such as Head Start and 40 percent for public school funding. Racetracks and machine makers, meanwhile, would retain half of the money raised. This plan, video gambling proponents believe, will win voter approval.

Twice in the last 13 years, Ohio voters have turned thumbs down on casino-style gambling. Despite the lure of a quick-fix for the state's pinched economy, we don't think that sentiment is going to change.

Electronic gambling has been sold previously as a way to finance the state's underfunded school system. It did not convince voters last time.

Some politicians apparently feel more inclined to represent the best interests of the gambling industry than the people they are supposed to represent. They keep coming up with different plans to expand the state's gambling laws and will continue to change up the "bait" until the voters bite.

It is difficult to say "no" to children, but Ohioans have demonstrated they do not want to fund education with gambling.

If the issue makes it to November's ballot and is defeated, legislators really need to take a long, hard look at how the state is going to fund education. We feel the key is responsible fiscal management.

While certain forms of gambling have worked in other parts of the nation, simply assuming the limited plan on the table will fix all of our fiscal woes is not sensible. We have no qualms with responsible gambling, but gambling on our educational funding is a risk Ohio should not take.