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The Corruption is Now Complete

By David Zanotti

Back in 1988, we really were not all that interested in entering a fight on casino gambling. The Roundtable had been in operation for eight years. We had many issues far more pressing than gambling expansion. Then we began doing serious research on the history of legalized gambling in America, with a particular focus on the corruption gambling interests bring to civil government. That study led to more research on rising gambling addictions and the destruction of families. Along the way we met Sandy Walgate, a schoolteacher from East Liverpool who shared her story of nearly losing her star athlete son to a gambling addiction. Through Sandy’s tears this all became very real.

For almost 25 years now we have been presenting the evidence that gambling ruins lives and corrupts government. All the honest research is conclusive. The gambling industry thrives on addicts. When government gets into business with the gambling industry, the government partners in the addiction business. What politicians intentionally ignore is the inevitable reality that once state and local budgets are addicted to gambling revenues, the casino bosses call the shots. Thus, gambling and good government don’t ever mix.

Before the first casino even opened its doors in Ohio, this inevitable reality proved true once again. Not content with a private monopoly amendment they wrote into the Ohio Constitution, Penn National and Dan Gilbert (Ohio’s current casino overlords) wanted more. They found a greedy legislature and a willing partner in Governor Kasich. Together they cooked up a scheme to take a “limited” gambling proposal passed by the voters in 2009 and blow it into a full-scale plan for virtually unlimited gambling across the state.

Had they chosen to take this new plan to the voters and further amend the Ohio Constitution, as the law requires, it would have been a fair fight. Instead they decided to deny the precedents of legal construction and constitutional law dating back to before the Civil War. They just passed a law giving the government, the casino overlords and the greedy lawmakers whatever they wanted.

They tried something similar about 10 years ago in Ohio. They decided to expand the Lottery, but rob the schools of the new funding. The Roundtable sued because the new law directly violated the state constitution. We gained standing in the case, won the funding argument, returned the money to the schools and the case was upheld on appeal.

This time around, with a law passed that violated the state and federal constitutions in at least 17 places, the Roundtable sued again in the same Franklin County Court. To the amazement of many, Judge Timothy Horton, after eight months of deliberations refused to hear the case stating that none of the plaintiffs, including the Roundtable had the right to bring such a case to court. Ten years ago we did have standing and the courts upheld a significant portion of our challenge, this year we don’t have the right to a day in court on very similar claims. How exactly does that work?

So the Ohio Constitution, Article XV has been amended to expand gambling dramatically, but you won’t find the words there. The constitution was overridden by a simple statute passed by the Legislature at the request of the Governor. The people of Ohio had no say on the destruction of three constitutional provisions on gambling they passed in 1973, 1987 and 2009.

The politicians got the money they wanted. Their lobbying friends and lawyers got paid. The gambling industry got everything they wanted and the citizens of Ohio had no legal say in the matter. Which all proves the point we first discovered from studying the history of gambling back in 1988. Gambling and good government don’t ever mix.

David Zanotti is CEO of the American Policy Roundtable, the parent company of the Ohio Roundtable, established in 1980. The Roundtable is a non-profit, independent education and research organization specializing in public policy.

Gambling and Good Government Don’t Mix

“The first time Ohio voters say ‘yes’ to the gambling industry is the last time anyone has the chance to say ‘no’.” That is the way Rob Walgate, Vice-President of the Ohio Roundtable, describes the landscape as the first casino approved by voters in 2009 finally opens its doors three years later in Cleveland.

Walgate points out the string of broken campaign promises made to voters that have never come true. First is the 34,000 promised jobs that have never materialized. Next is the fact the amendment was so poorly written that the Columbus facility had to be moved and the Cleveland facility is not in one location but actually spans two properties. Casino owner Dan Gilbert is already discussing opening a third extended facility in Cleveland because the original boundaries were not sufficient.

“The tremendous irony here is that the same casino owners who wrote their own private monopoly amendment in 2009 are refusing to abide by their own amendment language. They are just doing whatever they please, and the Governor and the Legislature are willingly following the requests of the gambling industry. Instead of 4 limited casino facilities, Ohio is now facing three facilities in Cleveland and seven more racetrack casinos operated by the Lottery across the state. The deal voters approved has been displaced by an ‘anything goes’ gambling legislature.”

Walgate reminded Ohioans that all this was predicted all the way back to the first gambling campaign in Ohio in 1990. “The gambling industry has a history across the nation of turning limited legal language into a casino gambling tidal wave. That is exactly what was predicted and what is happening, only faster than anyone imagined. Once voters say yes to ‘limited’ casino gambling, the industry takes yes to never mean no. Sadly the Governor and Statehouse politicians are only too willing to please the new casino overlords. The voters have been kicked to the curb along with the Constitution.”

The Roundtable has been making the case that casino gambling and good government don’t mix for three decades. Currently the Roundtable leads a number of plaintiffs in a suit filed to enforce the Constitutional language of Ohio Ballot Issue 3, passed in 2009.

Founded in 1980, the Roundtable is an independent, non-profit, public policy organization headquartered in Ohio and reaching the nation.

Ohioans challenging Gov. Strickland’s Slot Machine Gambling to Ohio Supreme Court

On Friday July 23, LetOhioVote.Org filed a Writ of Mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court directly challenging Governor Ted Strickland’s plan to place up to 17,500 video slot machines at Ohio horse race tracks without a vote of the people.

In the writ, LetOhioVote.Org committee members Tom Brinkman, Gene Pierce and David Hansen asked the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold the right of referendum on this issue. Further, the committee seeks the Court’s affirmation of the peoples’ constitutional right to vote on the video slot machine scheme. If the committee’s effort succeeds, the issue will be placed before voters in November 2010, and the slot machine rollout will be halted pending that vote.

“In 2006, nearly 57 percent of Ohioans opposed placing video slot machines at horse race tracks,” Pierce said. “If Governor Strickland and legislative leaders believe their plan is better than the one the voters already rejected, they ought to make their case directly to the people. Simply ignoring a public vote should not be an option.”

“The governor and legislative leaders should have the courage to place this issue before the voters,” former state representative Brinkman said. “They didn’t have the nerve to cut government, but they freely violate the expressed will of the people? Well, we say ‘not so fast.'” Brinkman is the co-founder of COAST, a Cincinnati-based taxpayer advocacy group.

“Placing video slot machines at struggling race tracks is nothing more than giving wealthy track owners a huge government bailout,” Hansen added. “It’s the same old story; they can’t make their business profitable so they turn to government. Any way you look at it, it’s bad economics and bad government.”

In 2007, Governor Strickland said, “The people of Ohio have spoken with a clear voice on this issue time and time again. They do not want an expansion of gambling in their state.” “The people deserve another opportunity to speak with a clear voice on this issue,” Pierce concluded.

Joining the fight against Strickland’s violation of Ohioans constitutional rights was Buckeye Institute’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. The 1851 Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens in Charge and the Ohio Freedom Alliance. The brief urges the court to find language in the state budget excluding the authorization of video slot machines from referendum unconstitutional.

“The referendum process outlined in the Ohio Constitution is sacrosanct and must be tread upon lightly,” said Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “Ironically, in seeking to arbitrarily and unconstitutionally deprive the people of Ohio of their right to Referendum, the General Assembly accentuates the very reason why Initiative and Referendum are so vital to Ohio’s governance.”

The brief points out that the right to referendum was added by amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1912 to “serve as a check on the General Assembly by permitting laws, or parts of laws passed is that body to be submitted to voters for their approval or rejection.” In addition the brief cites that the Ohio Supreme Court has, on multiple occasions, upheld the right to a referendum as a staple of democracy in Ohio and should do so again on this issue.

Commentary: In 2006, slot machines gambling (Keno) was voted down by Ohio voters. It was called the Learn and Earn Initiative (Issue 3). Ohioans did learn how much rich track and bar owners would gain and how little school children would gain if passed. Moreover, Ohioans learned that shyster politicians, race track and bars owners were attempting make profits their Constitutionally guaranteed right. Those were reasons Ohio voters said NO to the Keno gambling initiative, a second step to justifying casino gambling. (The first step was allowing the lottery.)

The real issue then is not whether voters have a right of referendum, but a right to have their vote actually count. Ohio citizens made a valid constitutional decision about slot machine gambling at race tracks and other establishments. The decision was NO. No contingency exists–like the State budget deficit–that can negate the common consent of Ohio voters.

The issue created by Gov. Strickland and his legislative supporters amounts to the worse kind of political misbehavior. For they blatantly violate the rights Ohio citizens, oppose their Constitutional powers, and thumb their noses at the will of Ohioans. I do not see any other way to stop politicians of their ilk other than a swift and permanent removal from public office.

In the private sector, it is called being fired.

United Methodists Battle Gambling in Ohio

By Kathy L. Gilbert

Gambling is increasingly becoming an addiction to states trying for balance their budgets in the midst of an economic crisis.

Giving in to the temptation by allowing casinos or expanding state-sponsored gambling would heap the financial burden on those least able to afford it, said several United Methodists on the front lines of the public policy debate.

“In these economic bad times, we are witnessing the throwing over of the common good,” said the Rev. Tom Grey, a United Methodist pastor who is field director for the grassroots organization Stop Predatory Gambling. (,em>SPG is an excellent source of information.)

One of the latest battlegrounds is Ohio, where the governor, Ted Strickland, is a United Methodist minister who was elected in 2006. Strickland, who earlier expanded the state lottery to Sundays and added Keno games, is proposing bringing in video slot machines at the state’s seven racetracks as a way to bridge a $3.2 billion budget deficit. Keno is a bingo-like gambling game offered by some state lotteries.

The Rev. Tom Grey

The Rev. Tom Grey

This is an about face for a politician who had been an outspoken opponent of gambling during his campaign, said the Rev. John Edgar, a United Methodist pastor who has been fighting to keep gambling out of Ohio for the past 19 years. Edgar is chair of the anti-gambling task force for the East and West Ohio Annual (regional) Conferences.

“We are profoundly disappointed. I believe it shows an amazing public cowardice,” Edgar said. “United Methodists and the Ohio Council of Churches have led the effort for 19 years to stop casinos in Ohio.”

Tom Smith, public policy director for the Ohio Council of Churches, said gambling opponents face their toughest fight ever this year because of the overall economic situation.

Gambling proposals are coming from three directions, Smith said. Beside the video slot machines proposed by the governor, there is another proposal from bars and restaurants to put slot machines in their businesses and there is a drive to put casinos on the November ballot.

Slippery slope

In defense of his latest proposal, Strickland says state law allows slot machines as part of the Ohio lottery. It is the same argument he used to introduce Keno to the state, said East Ohio Bishop John Hopkins.

“Once you start letting gambling in you get hooked and it becomes addictive,” he said. “Living on gambling income promotes behavior that is counter to the health of the state.”

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland

Hopkins and West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough have been working on building a relationship with the governor. Strickland is on “honorable location,” which means he is in good standing as an ordained minister but not active in the church. Ough said he was ordained a deacon in West Ohio and ordained as an elder in Kentucky.

Both bishops wrote a personal letter to Strickland expressing their disappointment in his decision to expand gambling.

“We suggested it would have been a better expression of his moral leadership if he had stood his ground and offered other ways to balance the budget,” Ough said.

“The United Methodist Church has a longstanding commitment to oppose gambling. It is bad economics,” Ough said. “We are obliged not to use forms of generating revenue that causes harm.”

The United Methodist Social Principles calls gambling “a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship.”

Selling bad public policy on the grounds revenues will benefit education is reprehensible, Edgar said.

“We are saying we care so little about our children that we will fund their education only if we can do it out of the gambling losses of our neighbors.”

Tax on the poor

Gambling is a regressive tax, said the Rev. Cynthia Abrams of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

“It is an extra tax on the poor and the most vulnerable such as older adults who are lonely and looking for social interaction,” she said, pointing to the practice of many seniors boarding buses to go to casinos as a social activity.

One “frightening and weird” fact is that a major financial drain on casinos is the money spent on replacing the cushions on stools in front of slot machines, she said.

“People won’t get up from machines even to go to the bathroom. That shows the seductiveness of slot machines, that is how they are designed.”

Abrams said the economic crisis has compounded the issue, but the trend toward resisting higher taxes helped the gambling industry gain a foothold before the recession kicked in.

“This environment of people resisting raising taxes has had intended and unintended effects on state budgets,” she said. “In essence, we want services all the time, but we have moved away from the idea of paying our fair share.”

Grey said United Methodists will stand strong and continue to fight this dangerous menace in other key states as well as Ohio.

“What a ripe time for the church to speak truth to gambling,” he said. “You can’t gamble yourself rich.”

Source: United Methodist News Service, July 10, 2009.

Another attempt by Ohio legislators to legalize casino-style gambling

Apparently, Ohio lawmakers don’t get it. Ohioans are not in favor of padding the pockets of businesses or politicians with family-destroying addition money. For many gamblers, gambling is pathology. This pathology results in the ruin of personal finances, family welfare, and individuals lives. Yet, Ohio politicians seem blind to anything except money, which is evident in the following Dayton Daily News article.

State Reps. Todd Book, D-McDermott, and Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, said on Tuesday, April 7, that they’re drafting legislation based largely on an Ohio Racing Commission plan to put 14,000 slot machines at Ohio’s seven racetracks without a vote of the people.

They’re gathering cosponsors and hope to introduce the bill next week, Book and Blessing said.

Separately, Philip Craig, executive director of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association, said he is gathering legislative support for a plan to permit slot machines at bars and restaurants, also without the vote of the people.

The effort has support from bar owners such as David Grusenmeyer in the Dayton area, who said business at his three bars is the worst he’s seen in 24 years. He owns two bars in Huber Heights and one in Fairborn.

Work on both proposals comes with the Ohio Ballot Board scheduled to meet on Monday, April 13, to consider a petition from backers of a proposal for casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. The board must give its OK before supporters can begin to gather the 402,275 signatures needed to put the proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot.

As you can see, the proposed bill is intended to benefit only a few businesses. The reason Ohio needs slot machine gambling at racetracks and in bars is to bailout them out of their financial recession.

Even worse is the repeated use of this golden cash cow to save education from its supposed financial woes justification is getting nauseating.

The state’s weak economy combined with money woes at the tracks make it the right time to discuss expanding the Ohio Lottery to include slot machines at the tracks, said Book. The proposal will call for 51 percent of gross revenue to go to education, said Blessing.

If the economy were so bad that people aren’t spending enough of their unemployment or stimulus checks, how would gambling solve this cash flow problem? Maybe, the best thing for voters handing onto to their dollars is for such business to cease to exist. Taxpayers should refuse to allow politicians to use their tax dollars to prop up poorly managed businesses or those whose products and services are no longer in great demand. The larger they are the louder the sound of good riddance should be heard. Such shouting might even stimulate voters to put those politicians who supported this bill and others like it on unemployment, in my humble opinion.

Source: Dayton Daily News, April 8, 2009

Problem of gambling supported by Gov. Strickland

Have you noticed the recent ads on Casino gambling? Ohio taxes are traveling out of state at 65 miles an hour. Poor Ohio is being left out of the profitable gambling. All of the surrounding states have accepted more crime, more violence, and more corruption all for increased profits and tax revenues. Because all other states have accepted the vice of gambling and its benefits such as increased tax revenue, ruin of families and individual lives, increased crime and corruption, Ohio should as well. Surely not all other states can be wrong!

Behind the snake in the grass is Governor Ted Strickland. He has devised a plan to expand gambling in Ohio under the auspices of the Ohio Lottery Commission, according to the Ohio Roundtable. When he first came into office, he helped fulfill the will of Ohio voters against more gambling, not anymore. Strickland’s plan would expand gambling without a vote. His plan would implement types of gambling previously rejected by voters. His plan gives the casino industry additional justification for acceptance in Ohio. Like casino gambling, Strickland’s plan also increases the problems associated with gambling. Continue reading