Published May 31, 2009
If David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, said it once, he said it a dozen times: The Mahoning Valley will not settle for crumbs.
And, if Charlie Luken, former congressman and former mayor of Cincinnati, said it once, he said it a dozen times: The $6 million or so that Mahoning County and city of Youngstown governments would receive each year may be crumbs to Betras, but in this economy such unearned money is a godsend.
The debate that Betras and Luken were involved in Saturday morning on "The Valley's Talkin' With Doc and Bert" on 1330 TALK-WGFT (a tape of the show should be available on this web page Monday afternoon) clearly revealed the battle lines in the latest effort to bring casino-style gambling to Ohio.
This effort — it is the fifth time voters are being asked to amend the state constitution to permit an expansion of gambling — is being led by Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and head of Quicken Loans, and Penn National Gaming.
Petitions are being circulated to secure the signatures of 400,000-plus registered voters to place the constitutional amendment on the November general election ballot. If voters approve the amendment, four casinos would be permitted, one each in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
The amendment also calls for a revenue-sharing plan, which would result in local governments and school systems getting a share of the income. Hence, the $6 million for Mahoning County and Youngstown.
But Betras, as Democratic Party chairman, has launched a campaign against the initiative because the Valley would not get a casino.
In the hour-long debate Saturday, neither Betras nor Luken would yield. Thus, the proponents are proceeding, while Betras is rallying his troops to make sure it is defeated handily in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
They did agree on this: Without a strong "yes" vote from this region, the issue will fail statewide.
The battle has been joined — and stay tuned for both sides to pull out all the stops.
Indeed, there could be a surprise move made later this week.