Ohio casino backers to start signature drive

By Marc Kovac

About 400,000 names are needed to get the issue on this fall’s ballot.

COLUMBUS — Signature collectors should be out in earnest, seeking registered voters’ support of a ballot issue allowing casinos in Ohio’s four biggest cities.

The Ohio attorney general signed off on the final petition-related documents Wednesday, allowing the group to launch its signature drive, said Bob Tenenbaum, group spokesman.

Petition carriers must collect upward of 400,000 signatures from registered Ohio voters, including required representation from half of the state’s 88 counties. The names have to be turned in by July 1, said Kevin Kidder, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

The secretary of state’s office and county elections boards then will have about 20 days to verify the signatures. The casino group would have additional time to gather more names if the validation process yields fewer than the total required to place the issue before voters in November.

The constitutional amendment would allow one casino in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo.

Backers say the sites would create about 20,000 jobs — that number includes construction work, casino employees and workers at businesses that sprout up around the locations — and result in $1 billion in new private investment.

Additionally, they say the projects would provide $200 million in licensing fees and $600 million in tax revenues for the state, counties, cities and school districts.

The proposal requires that at least $250 million be invested at each of the four casino sites. Operators would have to pay $50 million in licensing fees for each location.

A “permanent, guaranteed” tax of 33 percent would be charged on gross casino revenues. The proceeds would be split among counties and cities, school districts, racing and casino commissions and law enforcement. Four previous casino issues have been rejected by voters.

, including one last November that would have established a location in southwestern Ohio.

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