Changes sought for Ohio casino plan

By Marc Kovac

The proposed amendment would outlaw construction of any new casino in Ohio.

COLUMBUS — A Republican state legislator hopes voters will rethink their support of the casino plan approved at the polls this week.

Rep. Clyde Evans, a Republican from Rio Grande, told Statehouse reporters Wednesday that he would introduce a constitutional amendment to increase the state’s share of casino revenues and change the way the gambling plan is implemented.

“The citizens of Ohio made it clear that they want casinos in this state,” Evans said. “During a time of economic duress, companies from outside of the state of Ohio gave our citizens only one option — a very bad option. And this constitutional amendment will correct some of those inequities.”

It’s the first of several proposals being considered by Republican lawmakers to counter Issue 3, which passed Tuesday by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent, according to unofficial results posted by the Secretary of State.

The amendment will allow casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Each will have to pay the state an up-front $50 million licensing fee, plus commit to investing at least $250 million in each facility.

The amendment levies a 33 percent tax on gross casino revenues, with 85 percent of the proceeds going to counties and school districts. Collections also will be earmarked for commissions to oversee casinos and racetracks, law enforcement training and gambling addiction services.

Under Evans’ amendment, which would be subject to voter approval, the state’s share of casino revenues would be increased to 60 percent, with half earmarked for schools and half to provide scholarships to needy students.

The amendment would also give the Ohio Lottery Commission authority over the casino rule-making process, allow casino managers to be selected through a competitive bidding process and ensure that no other casino sites are allowed in the state.

“We’re going to give the Legislature a chance to take a look at this rather than a couple billionaires from out of town,” Evans said, adding, “The only special interest group that I’m interested in is the people of Ohio.”

The amendment would require approval by three-fifths of the Legislature to place before voters.

“The fact is that [Issue 3] passed,” added Rep. Ronald Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown who opposed the amendment. “The people of the state of Ohio voted for it. And I think we have to tread very, very carefully in addressing a constitutional amendment with another constitutional amendment because some folks don’t like what the constitutional amendment apparently says.”

Lawmakers, who must pass implementing legislation enabling the casino plan to move forward, will have opportunities to determine whether there are loopholes in the plan that need to be addressed, he added.

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