#8216;One Site Initiative#8217; not correct plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 27, 2007

To say the ballot initiative for casino gaming being pushed by MyOhioNow is a disappointment would be like saying it’s no fun getting a root canal.

Of course it is.

The group has announced that Attorney General Marc Dann certified the language and the group can now petition voters for the 402,275 signatures required to place the issue on the ballot.

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A former statewide proposal would have given some select municipalities around the state the ability to have a local vote on casino gaming.

That has been scrapped for what MyOhioNow is calling the “Single Site Initiative,” meaning voters will decide if a location in Clinton County should be approved for a $600,000,000 project.

The group indicates the proposed area is “centrally located between the Columbus-Cincinnati-Dayton areas in Clinton County.”

We call it something else — tucked away in Ohio’s southwest corner.

Regardless of what it’s labeled, the reality is the proposed site may well be a tough sell to people in several locations throughout Ohio.

Are people in Lawrence and Scioto counties, and the counties that run north along the Ohio River, going to travel to Dayton or go less than two hours to Cross Lanes, W.Va.?

It’s there that a $250 million expansion is going to take place at the Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center.

That complex will include a 250-room, high-rise hotel, a conference center, a 12,000-seat arena, a four-story, 5,000-space parking garage, a luxury spa, restaurants, boutique shops and other amenities.

It seems yet again that Ohio is behind when it comes to casino gaming. But beyond that, the whole argument for casino gaming is economic development. Although our friends in Clinton County certainly have something to be excited about, it leaves little enthusiasm for the rest of us.

The promise of more tax dollars to all 88 Ohio counties seems hollow and, frankly, a bit of a consolation prize.

Casino gaming has the potential to create the kind of economic development that can rejuvenate areas where the economy is depressed or struggling.

The original plan to allow gaming in specific areas that qualified was much more appealing. Then the issue would be left up to voters in each locality.

As it stands, even if the initiative is successful, the benefits outside of southwest Ohio would be nominal.