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Backers, opponents debate Issue 3 on slots

Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.

Opponents say Issue 3 could cause potential social problems.
COLUMBUS -- Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would fund tuition aid for Ohio students with proceeds from slot machines said their proposal is the key to boosting college attendance in Ohio.
Detractors, however, said the proposal, dubbed Learn & amp; Earn, is more about making the owners of Ohio's horse racing tracks wealthy than it is about helping Ohio children afford college.
Neil Clark, a spokesman for the backers, the Learn & amp; Earn Committee, told the Columbus Rotary Club on Monday that the proposed amendment would help boost education in Ohio, a state that he said was falling behind nationally.
"We're competing with the states that we used to make fun of," Clark told the club during a debate on the measure, known on the Nov. 7 ballot as state Issue 3.
Meanwhile, David Zanotti, president of the American Policy Roundtable, a Cleveland-area public policy organization, told the crowd: "This is about a handful of nine people hijacking the Constitution."
Learn & amp; Earn backers say the initiative, if approved, would create a state fund for all Ohio schoolchildren to receive money for college tuition.
To get that money, the initiative would take some of the proceeds from 31,500 slot machines that would be allowed at the seven horse-racing tracks in Ohio and at two proposed downtown Cleveland casinos.
What backers contend
Learn & amp; Earn backers say 45 percent of the 2.8 billion in annual slot machine revenue would fund the tuition grants as well as economic development, gambling addiction services and purse money for Ohio's tracks.
Casino developers and racetrack owners would get the remainder, under the proposal.
Ohio graduates could begin benefiting in 2009 if Learn & amp; Earn is approved.
Opponents say the lure of tuition grants isn't worth the potential social problems such as increased crime and addictive gambling that could come with the proposal.
Clark, a prominent Statehouse lobbyist, said the proposal could bring much-needed economic development to areas of the state.
The proposal also could lead to thousands of new jobs, said Clark, who, along with Zanotti, responded to questions from the audience.
"This is, without a doubt, an attempt to hijack your Constitution," said Zanotti, who has fought past attempts to expand legalized gambling in Ohio.
Twice during the 1990s, voters statewide defeated attempts to expand legalized gambling in Ohio.

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