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Churches fight to cast out slots plan

Published: Thu, July 16, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.


Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D-Lisbon)

Allowing the terminals could send too many people down a slippery slope toward addiction, some say.


Church groups vowed to fight Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to place video lottery terminals at the state’s seven horse racetracks, saying they’ll launch legal actions and grass-roots efforts to ensure “slot machines do not prey upon our fellow citizens.”

Mahoning Valley churches are siding with the Ohio Council of Churches, saying that allowing the terminals could send too many people down a slippery slope toward addiction.

“Some people can do that sort of thing once a year, and they’re fine with it. Then there are those where it opens the door to an actual addiction. It’s like a monster,” said Pastor Mary Hall, who runs an addiction support group at the Fifth Avenue Community Church in Youngstown.

“I have people who struggle with gambling, drugs, alcohol and that sort of thing,” Hall said. “It will bring in a whole lot more. I guess my class will grow bigger.”

At the Glenwood Primitive Methodist Church in Boardman, churchgoers have been politically active in the past by sending postcards and writing letters to Congress about abortion and the rights of parents, but it typically takes the approach of helping people after a decision has been made, said Pastor Nathan Doyle.

“We take the approach of ‘it’s happened... we need to educate people against it and about how it’s an addicting, life-shattering behavior,” he said.

Tom Smith, public policy director for the Ohio Council of Churches, and the Rev. John Edgar, chairman of the United Methodist Anti-Gambling Task Force, said Strickland’s executive directive and language included by lawmakers in the recently passed biennial budget were unconstitutional. They also say slots wouldn’t generate the nearly $1 billion officials are banking on to fill a budget gap.

The two groups plan to join David Zanotti and the American Policy Roundtable in earlier-announced intentions to file a lawsuit to stop the slots plan.

“It took Pennsylvania three years to satisfy court cases to allow racetrack slots,” Smith said. “Can Ohio depend on this source to supply nearly a billion dollars to its $3.5 billion budget hole?”

The governor and supportive lawmakers say the plan, implementing slots under the Ohio Lottery via an executive directive and language added to the state budget, is constitutional.

Earlier this week, Strickland issued a directive to the head of the state lottery to start the process of placing video lottery terminals at the state’s seven horse racing tracks.

Lottery officials still have to develop the rules for how the slots will be implemented. But Strickland’s directive outlines details:

• Up to 2,500 terminals will be allowed at each race track.

• Locations will have to complete “extensive background check procedures,” pay a $100,000 nonrefundable application fee and a $65 million licensing fee. The latter can be made in five equal installments, with the first payments due in mid-September.

• Licenses will be granted for a 10-year period. Licensees must commit to making at least $80 million in facility improvements within the first five years of operating slots, with a first-year investment of at least $20 million.

• Half of the net revenues generated by the video lottery terminals will go to the state. Of that, a portion will be used to cover operational costs, with the remainder designed for school funding.

Strickland has estimated the slots plan will generate about $933 million for the state over the biennium.

“The dedication of that revenue to education programs is critical to our continued efforts to strengthen Ohio’s education system,” according to the governor’s directive. “Increased lottery revenues allow the state to dedicate scarce general revenue funds to critical programs benefiting the health, safety and welfare of Ohio’s citizens, avoiding devastating cuts to those programs.”

But Smith and Edgar countered Wednesday that the plan is unconstitutional in that the lottery language in the constitution does not allow slot machines, and half of the proceeds will be designated for racetrack use. All lottery profits are supposed to go to education, they said.

Pastor Bob Quaintance at the Good Hope Lutheran Church in Boardman said even though lottery dollars are supposed to be designated for education, they provide an avenue for government to remove other money from schools.

“If the government said there were no other resources to find money, I understand the plight... We’ve heard about cutbacks for people who are needy, for our library, so I understand the plight,” he said. “I don’t care too much what people blow their money on. When it comes to people who think this is their only hope ... then it becomes a devastating tax on people.”


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I support the Churches. Let's collect signatures and force a statewide vote. It will be NO again. They are God's tools to stop this illegal act by Stricknine against the will of the majority of Ohio voters.

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2NoBS(2758 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Any church that hosts a festival that includes any games of chance is involved in gambling. Any church that has a Bingo game is involved in gambling. For any of them to come out against gambling is hypocrisy.

The worry that "the terminals could send too many people down a slippery slope toward addiction." (from the Vindy article) is without merit. Anyone who has a gambling itch that needs scratched has only to step outside Ohio, in just about any direction, and they can find what they seek. So who, exactly, are they worried about protecting?

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3teddybear6(39 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Nevermind that a slot casino like Mountaineer could provide jobs for some of the unemplyed in the valley.Think about it, church people!!!

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4AKAFR1(322 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Why punish the majority because of the few? Bring on the slots. If the citizens of Ohio do not want slots they will not visit the race tracks. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to go out of business.

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5sugoi(5 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I am so sick and tired of the churches trying to dictate what people, groups, organizations, and even government can and cannot do. According to The Almighty Church, they alone have the knowledge of what God wants or doesn't want, then they try to force everyone to go along with what they believe. Have they forgotten that the greatest gift God gave man was free will and the ability to make choices? America is becoming one tiny step away from the Muslim world, where the religious "scholars" and their moral police ban everything, in fear that there may be some who misuse whatever it is - whether it's alcohol, truth in the press, questionable pictures, books, and on and on. Is this the kind of America you want to live in - where certain Christians determine what you can see, do or where you can go? If you don't like casinos - don't go! Don't push your beliefs of "right" and "wrong" on everyone else. Jesus didn't, and neither does God.

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6jimiohoh(88 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Isn't Stickland a minister?

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7dbinnc(51 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

The valley has been dealing with this for years. Some lawmaker needs to present a bill that will end all church gambling. No Bingo, no gambling at festivals and see how quickly they start whining. Then present a bill allowing slots at tracks, bingo at churchs, etc. The churchs have control over the gambling and don't want to give it up. Sounds like the mafia to me.

Someone needs to do a study and count the number of Ohio licence plates at Mountineer and then figure all the money being lost. "teddybear6" said it first, think of all the jobs it could bring in. Not just casino jobs, but resturants, hotels, and retailers. Not to mention the tax revenues that could be used to hire more police, fire, and school teachers.
With more tax money, more jobs, means more money in the valley, which would mean more money into the church tills.

But the local bible thumpers want to tell everyone what to do. To Hell with them all, because that's where they are all headed

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8TB(1167 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

What a horrible note to end on db.

"Pastor Bob Quaintance at the Good Hope Lutheran Church in Boardman said even though lottery dollars are supposed to be designated for education, they provide an avenue for government to remove other money from schools."

This is an excellent point. If we're going to have the machines, then the language needs to be tight.

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9Viewpoint(89 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

What we really need is freedom FROM organized religion. What is next on their agenda? Ban sex, you might have too many kids, Ban booze, you might become a drunk, Ban books, you might become educated enough to rebel against the methodic guilt laden control foisted upon you by the church. I am a firm believer in God, but will I never be controlled by a church created by mortals.

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10houndsfan(68 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

If a church has the right to take the state to court, then cut off those big tax write offs that churches and ministers receive.

I would rather see them try video slots, then cutting education or other services.

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