Gov. John Kasich said he’s in no rush to legalize slot machines at the state’s horse racetracks.
Kasich, a Republican, said Thursday that the state wants to hire a “gambling expert” to review gaming in Ohio, including casinos being built in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo and the possibility of slot machines at the state’s seven racetracks.
Penn National Gaming Inc. wants to relocate a harness track from Toledo to Austintown. The company says it would invest $200 million in the facility if slots are legalized at tracks.
“We’re not the people who are qualified to deal with people who are in the gaming business,” Kasich said. “I want someone who is a brilliant analyst of the gaming business to get hired to come in and help the people of the state of Ohio.”
Kasich said he supports businesses making money, but “I’m also in favor of taxpayers getting a fair shake.”
“Gaming is fine,” Kasich said, but added “the economy in the Mahoning Valley is not going to be built on the back of gaming.”
As for a time frame for a decision on legalizing slots, Kasich said, “Haste makes waste. I want to make sure we do everything we’re doing and make sure it’s being done right.”
He told a Vindicator reporter that he won’t “set a time limit” because he would then be held to that schedule.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, said it is “shocking” that Kasich isn’t embracing slots at racetracks as it would stimulate the state’s economy.
State legislators from the Mahoning Valley are working with Republican leaders in the General Assembly to get a bill in place to legalize slots at racetracks.
Kasich spoke to about 500 people Thursday at a hangar at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna. The event was sponsored by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
About 700 protesters lined state Route 193 near the airport to protest a Republican-sponsored bill, which Kasich supports, to end or limit collective bargaining for public employees.
Kasich said he understands that they’re “hopping mad,” but he supports the bill because it provides significant financial benefit to the state and taxpayers.
Chanting “kill the bill,” and “the idiot’s got to go,” meaning Kasich, the protesters stood on either side of the narrow, two-lane road to show their anger at the bill, Senate Bill 5.
“This is a direct assault on organized labor and working families,” said Deborah Bindas, representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8.
“I have to thank the governor. He touched the nerve of organized labor and united us stronger. He’s awoken a sleeping giant.”
Other unions with members who are primarily in the private sector joined the protest.
“If the bill passes, [Republicans] will come after the private sector,” said Ted Karapetsas, human resources development director and assistant to the chairman of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers—Communications Workers of America Local 717.
“Injustice to one is an injustice to all,” added Karen Krolopp, Local 717 president.
“We’re standing and fighting for public workers across America,” said Gary Steinbeck, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers of America District 1. “We’re not going to let someone destroy years of collective bargaining.”
There were about two dozen supporters of Kasich and the Republicans pushing the bill.
One of them, Donovan O’Neil, president of the Mahoning County Young Republicans, said the size of the union crowd was “impressive. Obviously there are a lot of people concerned about what’s going on. But we need an honest discussion on what brought us to this point.”
Some of those inside the hangar could hear the protesters outside during Kasich’s speech.
Kasich said the collective-bargaining proposal is just “one piece of an overall agenda” to reduce the state’s expenses. When his budget is unveiled March 15, Kasich said people will see a “restructuring” of Ohio.
State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, said when Kasich comes to the Youngstown area, he praises the region.
“Everywhere else he makes Youngstown seem like an undeveloped Third World country,” Gerberry said.
The chamber event was supposed to take place at Leo’s Ristorante in Howland.
But because of anticipated protesters, the location was moved at Kasich’s request.
Several people still had to get past the protesters to get to the luncheon. Others parked in the airport’s main lot and were bused to the hangar.
Gerberry said he arrived to the airport hangar about 11:30 a.m. and had to wait for about 30 minutes — for Kasich’s plane to land — to get inside.
“Are we here for the pope or the governor?” said Gerberry, who added that he thought it was ridiculous to change the location and for the increased security for Kasich’s visit.