SLOTS, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE

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They’re at it again. Unable to persuade Ohio voters to just lift the state constitution’s ban on gambling, backers of various gambling schemes have resorted to subterfuge to get their issues on the ballot and to try to get them passed (so far without luck on the latter). This year’s deceptively named issue (following in the footsteps of 2006’s “Ohio Earn and Learn” and last year’s “My Ohio Now”) is “Ohio Jobs and Growth,” and apparently some of the petition circulators now collecting the more than 400,000 signatures needed to put it on the ballot in November want people to think that’s ALL it’s about. Petitioners in Youngstown were caught misleading citizens, and although a judge there did not shut down their signature collection, he ordered them to stop lying to people.

You’d think telling people the truth is the least they could do, especially since the law requires it. Among other things, they were telling voters that the issue wouldn’t amend the constitution (it would), that it would create “factory jobs,” and that a casino would be built in Youngstown (the issue provides for casinos to be built exclusively in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo).

These petitioners are just following in the footsteps of those working for previous gambling issues. Knowing that Ohioans aren’t that favorably disposed toward gambling, the Ohio Earn and Learn petitioners stopped people by asking them if they wanted to sign on to providing college scholarships for Ohio students. The slots parlors that would allegedly finance this benefit were only mentioned if you asked — and sometimes not even then. The determination of casino gambling promoters to sneak something past voters who won’t simply repeal a gambling prohibition has led to extravagant promises of economic benefits that would in fact mostly accrue to the promoters who are trying to write their own sweet business contracts into the state constitution. — Anastasia Pantsios

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