Published April 9, 2006
There are least three constitutional amendment proposals being discussed for this year's general election in Ohio, while the Eastern Shawnee Indian tribe of Oklahoma continues to pursue its ancestral claim to land in Buckeye State that, if successful, would give the Shawnees rights to establish casinos throughout the state, including one in Lordstown.
But, leading opponents to the expansion of gambling in Ohio are already rallying the troops to ensure that any such effort is defeated. The opponents are led by David Zanotti, head of the Ohio Roundtable, and various members of the clergy, including the Rev. John Temple of North-Mar church in Warren. They are emblodened by the fact that Ohioans have rejected casino-style gambling three times in recent years.
Whether this year will different, given that the states surrounding Ohio have gotten into or are getting into the game, remains to be seen.
But as Saturday's community forum in Lordstown on the issue revealed, if any of the constitutional amendments are approved by the voters, the Mahoning Valley will be shut out. That's because the region is not represented in the ongoing talks.
Area political and community leaders should be pragmatic and at least let the proponents of casino-style gambling that a region as important as this expects to be given a slice of the revenue pie. Otherwise, the leaders should warn that they will join the opponents in working to defeat any of the amendments.
But why should the Valley support a November vote when the Shawnee Indians have already selected Lordstown? Because the tribe's legal battles won't be resolved any time soon.
The forum, at Lordstown High School auditorium, was sponsored by Vindy.com and WFMJ-Channel 21. While the attendance was less than expected, the four participants in the debate, Zanotti and Rev. Temple on one side and Dr. Peter Yacobucci, a professor at Walsh University, and state Rep. Kenneth Carano, D-Austintown, did a masterful job of laying out the issues and arguing their positions.
Intelligent, knowledgeable discourse is what democracy is about.
In the end, however, the question the Valley must ask is this: Can one of the most economically depressed areas in the state afford to sit on the sidelines while other parts of the state discuss how to share the hundreds of millions of dollars gambling would generate?