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If slots are rejected, there's always God

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published July 20, 2009

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, the Republican controlled Ohio Senate and the Democratic controlled House of Representatives may have been premature in announcing an end to the biennium budget impasse, which paved the way for passage of the spending plan. The legalization of slot machines — the governor signed an executive order and the General Assembly confirmed his authority to do so — was the solution.

But now, the forces of "righteousness" are rising up against the expansion of gambling in Ohio. The future of slot machines in each of Ohio's seven horse-racing tracks is no longer a sure thing. The Supreme Court is being asked to reject the governor's executive order and the legislature's action. 

So, what happens if the court blocks the slots? There's always God. 

Last Saturday, on "The Valley's Talkin' With Doc and Bert" radio show on WGFT-AM 1330, Tom Smith of the Ohio Council of Churches, whose members have more than 2 million congregants, said that the governor and the legislature took the easy way out by legalizing slots. They should have considered rolling back the tax cuts that were put in place several years ago, he said.

Listen to Smith's comments — a recording of the show can be accessed by clicking on "The Valley's Talkin'" link on Vindy.com. He was asked whether the Council of Churches would provide the governor and legislators with political cover if they went for a tax recession.

Strickland and the Democratic and Republican leadership should call the council's bluff. If the slots are blocked, they should ask the churches to take the lead in launching a statewide campaign for the tax revenue. Since the faith community is so opposed to gambling that it can't see the damage that will be done to social services, especially those for the poor, without the revenue from slots, it has a responsibility to step up to the plate. After all, the men and women of the cloth have a God-given duty to those who have the most to lose with further budget cuts.

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