Ohioans OK casino gambling, but Mahoning Valley voters reject state Issue 3
By David Skolnick
Backers of the casino initiative aren’t surprised by the results in the Valley, a spokesman says.
YOUNGSTOWN — Las Vegas-style casinos are finally coming to Ohio, despite the rejection of the statewide issue in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Though disappointed with the statewide results, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, a strong and vocal opponent of the issue, said he’s proud of the unity shown by voters in the Mahoning Valley against the issue.
“I’m happy the Valley residents spoke loud and clear and stood arm-in-arm and voted as a region against this,” said Betras, who opposed the issue because it didn’t include a casino for this area.
“The people of Ohio spoke and Issue 3, despite its many flaws, was passed,” he added.
With 92 percent of the statewide vote counted, the gambling issue was winning 53.08 percent to 46.92 percent, according to unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
The measure received 44.39 percent support in Mahoning County, 49.44 percent support in Trumbull, and 38.17 percent in Columbiana.
“Given the degree of opposition in Mahoning County, it’s not terribly unexpected” it was rejected in the three Valley counties, said Bob Tenenbaum, spokesman for the Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan, which backed the ballot issue.
Betras said he’ll contact members of the Valley’s state legislative delegation today to discuss the laws that need to be drafted and passed before the casinos can operate.
“I will urge them to do everything in their power to ensure that the Valley receives all the funding to which we are entitled, inadequate as it may be,” he said.
Four other casino gambling efforts on ballots since 1990 all failed.
Supporters of the casinos spent more than $35 million on their campaign. Opponents spent more than $5 million to fight it.
The money was used for numerous mailings to voters and television commercials, including one from each side made specifically for the Valley.
Valley political leaders and clergy campaigned strongly against the issue to build gambling casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
“Whether a candidate or a statewide issue [Tuesday], the Valley said loud and clear you will not ignore us and you will no longer forget us or neglect us,” Betras said.
Supporters of the gambling issue say the casinos would provide about $650 million annually in gross revenue taxes for the state, including $27 million a year for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Opponents dispute those numbers. Casino supporters also say the projects would create 34,000 new jobs, including 19,000 construction jobs.
Ohio voters approved the casino gambling issue, which was, however, defeated in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Here are unofficial results with 100 percent of precincts reporting in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and with 98.06 percent of precincts, 101 of 103, reporting in Columbiana County.
Yes: 31,912, 44.39 percent.
No: 39,977, 55.61 percent.
Yes: 31,547, 49.44 percent.
No: 32,258, 50.56 percent.
Yes: 10,768, 38.17 percent.
No: 17,445, 61.83 percent.
Sources: Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties boards of elections