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YOUNGSTOWN Casino backers push campaign



Published: Sat, February 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Youngstown casino supporters agree with the governor about a public vote.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Those wanting to establish a gambling casino in Youngstown are being asked to let Gov. Bob Taft and Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder know they support the proposal.

The Casino for the Valley Committee wants supporters of the proposed Indian gambling casino to send letters, e-mails and faxes to Taft and Householder over the next few days endorsing the plan.

Illegal here: The committee has contacted the Wyandotte Indian tribe about building a casino in the Mahoning Valley. Indian tribes operate about 300 casinos in 29 states, but none in Ohio, where gambling casinos are illegal. For one to be established here, it would need the governor's support, committee officials said.

Taft has said he won't support casino gambling in the state without a vote of the people.

"Let them know you are unhappy with their ignoring and hurting the Mahoning Valley in every way including their eliminating direct Valley representation by redistricting and, most important, by ignoring our request for Gov. Taft to sign a legal Indian/state compact which would allow the development of this Indian casino in the Mahoning Valley," read an e-mail sent by Pat Mackondy, the committee's coordinator, to those supporting the proposal.

Youngstown casino backers say such a gambling establishment would give about 8 percent of its gross revenues from video lottery terminals, estimated at $20 million to $40 million annually, to the state and about 2 percent to local communities, estimated at $5 million to $10 million annually. The casino would employ about 2,000 workers, supporters say.

Committee officials agree with Taft that a vote of the people should be taken. Where they disagree with the governor is who should get to vote.

What committee wants: Mahoning and Trumbull counties voters -- or as a second option, those within a 50-mile radius of the proposed site -- should be the only people permitted to cast ballots on the casino because they would be the ones most affected by the project, said Sebastian Rucci, a committee member.

People living outside northeast Ohio will not be affected by a gambling casino and should not hold the fate of such a project in their hands, he said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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