Published March 11, 2006
In the last several weeks, there have been high-level talks in Cleveland about casino-style gambling in Ohio. Ohioans could be asked in November to approve a constitutional amendment to permit casinos at Ohio's seven horse-racing tracks, and at two sites in Cleveland and one in Cincinnati.
There is no mention of the Mahoning Valley in the news stories that have emanated from the meetings between Cleveland officials and Cuyahoga County commissioners.
Yes, this region could still get slot machines if the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma succeeds in its tribal claims to land in Ohio. But the legal battle will be long and hard. And there is no guarantee of success for the Shawnees.
On the other hand, given the $1 billion that some studies claim leave the state each year for gambling locales in West Virginia, Michigan, Las Vegas, New Jersey and Canada, proponents of casino-style gambling in Ohio are beginning to make inroads. Even though Ohioans have twice rejected statewide ballot issues on gambling, the climate is changing.
Statewide Republican officeholders, from the governor on down, continue to strenuously oppose the expansion of gambling in Ohio currently the lottery, horse racing and bingo are permitted. However, if Democrats succeed in this year's elections, proponents could find allies in state government.
With cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati pushing for casino-style gambling, Democrats who depend on such urban centers for their votes would be hard-pressed to ignore them.
And that raises the following question: Given the Mahoning Valley's Democratic leanings, why is this region not involved in any serious discussion about casinos?
What the Valley needs is an individual with political stature to remind the folks in Cleveland and Cincinnati that without this area, a constitutional amendment will not pass.