GAMBLING Petro: Casinos far from certain in Ohio
The Indian tribes face long and expensive battles to open casinos.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Recent agreements between some local governments and an Indian tribe trying to develop casinos in Ohio are practically meaningless as they will likely never go into effect, State Attorney General Jim Petro indicated Wednesday.
In a letter to gambling opponents who had called for a state review of the agreements, Petro said the agreements his office examined probably do not violate the state constitution because they are contingent on what he called "unlikely" future events.
"They are contingent on certain future events occurring," Petro said in his letter to the American Roundtable, the parent of the Ohio Roundtable, the Strongsville, Ohio-based nonprofit research organization that sought the state review of local-government and tribal agreements to develop casinos in several Ohio communities.
According to news reports, the 2,300-member, Oklahoma-based Eastern Shawnee tribe has struck deals to buy land in several locations around Ohio including Lordstown in Trumbull County; Lorain; Monroe, off Interstate 75 near Cincinnati; and in Botkins, between Dayton and Toledo.
'Never ... until'
"Thus, these agreements will never go into effect until, for example, the tribe is successful in obtaining 'Indian land' status for the land they have optioned or purchased, and/or full, 'Class III' casino gaming becomes legal in Ohio," said the letter from Petro, a Republican who's seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year.
Petro has said he is against the expansion of legalized gambling in Ohio.
Petro's letter said it could take the tribe "decades and many millions of dollars in legal fees and costs" to clear those and other hurdles.
"Nothing has been said or done by the tribe recently to change my view on that," Petro's letter said.
Petro's letter said the attorney general's office received information from Botkins, Monroe, Lorain and Lordstown and is still seeking information from the cities of Cleveland and Sandusky in connection with potential Indian casino development in those communities.
The tribe hopes to convince Republican Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers to allow casino-style gambling in Ohio and indicates there could be spin-off development such as hotels, restaurants and shopping associated with casino projects, news reports say.
According to news reports, Indian-casino backers say the proposed projects could bring jobs to the state and could bring a boost to income taxes in the affected areas. Backers say Indian casinos could also bring between $700 million and $900 million annually into state coffers, according to the reports.
A call seeking comment to Terry Casey, a Columbus-based consultant hired by the Eastern Shawnee tribe, wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.
Twice in the 1990s, Ohio voters have shot down proposals for casino gambling.
In 1990, voters statewide defeated a proposal for a pilot casino project in Lorain with local-option casinos in districts around the state.
In 1996, voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have authorized riverboat casinos.