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State will bust if it goes all-in on gambling

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is must be a duck. And if it sounds like gambling and pays out like gambling, it is most certainly gambling.

That is the heart of an issue that has consumed the state of Ohio in recent days as the Legislature works to bridge a more than $3 billion budget deficit.

What’s the best we can come up with? Slot-machine gambling. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, Video Lottery Terminals. I forgot. Gambling is illegal in Ohio, unless of course it is sponsored by the state.

Gov. Ted Strickland is in a tough spot, faced with shrinking revenue and the rapidly increasing cost of providing services that many people are quick to tell you cannot be lived without.

In fact, the governor is in such a bind that he has recanted his long-standing stance of being against gambling legislation. Wait, I forgot again, this is just the lottery.

And that is really the part that bugs me the most about this whole thing. Strickland and many of the House Democrats want to say, “Oh, this isn’t really like gambling. It’s just the lottery.”

Yeah, and you know what? That is gambling. Not far off from the types of gambling which Ohio voters have overwhelmingly defeated at the polls four times in the past two decades and twice in the past three years.

Granted, these ballot issues are all different from one another and all were flawed, but that doesn’t change the fact that the governor is essentially urging the Legislature to veto the voters, even though he actually has the authority to make this change himself.

In fact, Strickland was close to doing so this weekend and likely will next week.

Even if the Legislature is able to come together on this issue and get a budget in place that certainly won’t be the last voters hear about gambling.

Ohioans will once again face a gambling legislation ballot issue this fall. This version would create full-blown casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Once again, southern Ohio is left out in the cold. I hope this version goes down in flames just like its predecessors.

Don’t get me wrong. While I’m not a big gambler myself, I’m not fundamentally opposed to it.

In fact, I’d like to see a riverboat casino parked right down at Center Street Landing.

I’m opposed to the recent initiatives because all would almost certainly ensure that southern Ohio would never have the opportunity for something like this to comer here.

For Gov. Strickland or the Legislature to pass something that is so similar to what voters have denied is a slap in the face and takes the decision away from the people.

Ultimately, the state needs to show us some alternatives that do not include this video lottery options.

We shouldn’t have to gamble on Ohio’s future.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.