The anti-gambling campaign could cost up to $100,000.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Opponents of legalized gambling in Ohio plan a media blitz across the state in the coming weeks targeted at what they call the "scam of the Ohio Lottery."
"The public debate is on," said David Zanotti, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Roundtable.
"I'd like the Ohio Lottery to go away," Zanotti said Tuesday. "We think the lottery should go away." Legalized gambling preys on the poor and is anti-family, opponents contend.
The approximate $50,000 to $100,000 campaign is expected to be funded by the Roundtable, a public-policy organization that has actively opposed the expansion of legalized gambling in Ohio.
The Roundtable, which says it has a membership of about 1,000 Ohio families and a network of more than 50,000 supporters, has fought against efforts to amend the Constitution to authorize casino gambling and efforts to expand the Ohio Lottery.
Ads: There are five spots planned at this point, Zanotti said, which will run on radio stations and on cable television beginning in early to mid-February. The exact markets the advertisements will run in haven't yet been determined, Zanotti said.
The general theme of the push is to end the state's involvement in the Ohio Lottery.
"It's time to get out," Zanotti said. The group also plans to issue position papers and press the issue during the statewide political campaigns this year.
The planned campaign is drawing praise from religious groups who have also fought the state's involvement in legalized gambling.
"We're delighted the ads will be running," said the Rev. John Edgar, chairman of the Anti-Gambling Task Force of the United Methodist Church and the Ohio Council of Churches.
"We think that once the citizens of Ohio are fully informed as to what the lottery really costs in terms of addiction ... they'll not want to continue that anymore," said Edgar.
Mardele Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery Commission, said lottery officials have heard of the Roundtable's planned advertisement campaign, but that the lottery commission had no comment on it.
The state lottery commission operates a variety of online and instant ticket games. Online lottery games include the Pick 3, Pick 4, Super Lotto Plus, Kicker and Buckeye 5.
Lawsuit: The announcement of the anti-gambling blitz came as the Roundtable group and others filed suit against the state to stop the expansion of the Ohio Lottery into a multistate game.
The suit, filed by the Roundtable, Zanotti, Edgar and others in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, names as defendants Gov. Bob Taft, the State Lottery Commission and Mark E. Dottore, an Ohio Lottery Commission member.
The suit argues that the constitution permits only a lottery run exclusively by Ohio with no involvement by other states. Gambling opponents say they'll seek a court order to prevent the state from expanding into a multistate game.
Late last year, Republican Gov. Bob Taft signed legislation authorizing Ohio to join a multistate lottery to help reduce a projected $1.5 billion shortfall in the state's two-year, $45 billion budget.
Allowing Ohio to join a multi-state game is projected to generate about $41 million by the end of the budget period that ends in June 2003.
Gambling opponents say the state should stay away from using gambling to help fund government operations.
"Gambling as a tool of funding state government just doesn't work," said Zanotti.