Today's column was to have offered a strong endorsement of State Issue 3, the so-called casino constitutional amendment, but after hearing from opponents of the campaign to expand gambling in Ohio, this writer has found religion.
Editorialists, right-wing ideologues, religious leaders and prominent politicians such as U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich, a Republican, are absolutely correct: Gambling is evil and is not the answer to whatever ails Ohio.
Last Sunday, on this page (in the left hand column) and on the page opposite, The Vindicator and other newspapers expressed, in eloquent, morally superior language, the opinion that the proponents of State Issue 3 are perpetrating a major fraud on the people of the state. The only exception to the editorials published last week was the one in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"It's time for Ohio to take a gamble," the Plain Dealer said. "It's time for us to join the majority of states that permit and handsomely profit from legalized gambling."
Not surprisingly, the arguments put forth by that newspaper were summarily dismissed as parochial poppycock. Why? Because if State Issue 3 is approved Nov. 7 by the voters, there would be four sites in Cuyahoga County that would be permitted to have slot machines. Two of the sites would be the horse racing tracks in the county, while the other two would be free-standing casinos in downtown Cleveland.
But The Vindicator and the five other newspapers that were featured last Sunday had this message for the advocates of casino-style gambling in Ohio: A pox on your dens of iniquity.
Those editorial positions echo the sentiments of the Ohio Roundtable, a conservative grassroots organization headed by David P. Zanotti, the clergy, including leaders of the Catholic "Bingo is good for the soul" Church, and Voinovich and other leading Republicans in the state.
At the heart of their argument is the charge that the operators of the seven horse racing tracks in Ohio and the owners of land in downtown Cleveland where the two free-standing casinos will be located are pulling a fast one on Ohioans when they promise that a substantial amount of the annual revenue will be used for college scholarships and local economic development initiatives. These two-armed bandits deserved to be tarred and feathered, the detractors say.
The opposition to State Issue 3 is also built on the concept of the evils of gambling. Slot machines, called the cocaine of gaming, would destroy families, especially those on the economic edges, would cause a huge increase in the number of addicts, would hurt the state's economy by taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of circulation and would benefit only a handful of greedy, selfish individuals.
So strong is the sentiment against State Issue 3 that there is no way these opponents will be satisfied just defeating the constitutional amendment that will appear on the general election ballot.
The forces of good -- as opposed to the forces of evil -- have been unleashed this year and they will continue their campaign to cleanse Ohio's soul.
Newspaper editorialists, the Ohio Roundtable, the clergy and Voinovich and other politicos will undoubtedly launch a campaign to get rid of the Ohio Lottery, which takes millions of dollars out of the pockets of simpleton Ohioans, will insist on making horse racing illegal, will prohibit bingo and other games of chance, and will find a way to punish any Ohio resident who travels out of state to gamble. Anything less would be hypocritical, would it not?
Indeed, with all the creative forces that have been brought to bear against State Issue 3, there should no problem developing a system for tracking Ohioans who are so irresponsible as to take their hard-earned money and hop on a bus to Mountaineer, Detroit, Windsor (Canada), Niagara Falls (New York and Canada), Salamanca (New York), and Atlantic City.
And for those who would dare board a plane to fly to Las Vegas, arrests at the airport would certainly serve as a deterrent.
In 2004, the people of the state of Ohio passed a constitutional amendment that delivered a clear message to homosexuals: You are not welcome in the Buckeye State.
A similar initiative should be launched against those who want to gamble: We will burn you at the stake.
Note: Writing this column has been a cleansing experience. It had to have been divinely inspired.
Today, we take on Ohio. Tomorrow, Vegas, baby!