Casino laws make bad move slightly better

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ohio lawmakers took the state’s lemon of a law that allows casino gambling and attempted to make lemonade.

But the end result may still leave a sour taste in the mouths of many Ohioans.

The legislature closed its session last week by adopting a first wave of regulations for Ohio’s new casino industry. This was made possible last November when voters okayed the plan to build stand-alone casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

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As we have outlined many times, this measure was flawed from the start in part because it amended the state constitution. This means that even the simplest of changes have to be approved at the polls. This was apparent this spring when voters had to okay changing the Columbus casino’s proposed location to one that made more sense to everyone.

The legislature’s guidelines were far from perfect but they do a number of things right and provide a structure to make the most of this situation.

First and foremost, it establishes a state commission that will be solely tasked with licensing and regulating these four casinos that are required to make a $1 billion in on-site investments.

It also established liquor fees for the casinos’ bars and restaurants.

Basic rules including an entry age of 21, rules against free drinks and smoking and closing times of 2:30 a.m. like bars, according to the Associated Press.

The law also requires that half of the $200 million one-time licensing fee be used for job training across the state.

A flaw with the law is that, much like the original measure that made gambling legal, this entire document is designed to benefit the big casinos and lobbyists.

It allows Ohio taxpayers to now deduct gambling losses, in Ohio and anywhere else. It also extends that to lottery tickets, horse racing and pretty much any other type of gambling anywhere.

Another flaw is that it makes very little information public including casino ownership data unless they own more than 3 percent.

This is a step in the right direction but seems to be anything but a sweet deal for Ohio’s citizens.