The tough economy seems to have convinced a lot of people that they ought to back gambling in one form or another. Gov. Ted Strickland might be the most notable convert, having brought Keno to Ohio to try to patch the budget. The Fraternal Order of Police last week became the latest backers of gambling, getting behind a ballot issue to bring casinos to Ohio.
Ohioans who want to gamble should be free to do so. Itís s a matter of individual freedom, where a person can do with his own money what he pleases. But those eyeing casinos as a budgetary solution are likely to find themselves disappointed.
The nation is in a recession. Some say itís the worst economic slowdown since the early 1980s. Others paint a darker picture, calling this the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Whichever it is, people have less disposable income. That means theyíre spending less ó at the mall, on vacation, even on seemingly recession-proof essentials like alcohol and gambling.
Yet here we go again, pinning our budget hopes on gambling.
The Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday announced its support for the Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan on the Nov. 3 ballot. The proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution would authorize casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, creating an estimated 34,000 jobs and providing an estimated $651 million annually for Ohioís 88 counties, its eight largest cities (Lima is not among them) and all the public school districts.
Those estimates certainly sound good. Every taxing entity in Ohio could use the money. But itís important to remember that those numbers are just estimates and that such estimates have been coming up short as people hold more tightly to their money.
Strickland found that out the hard, expecting Keno would net $73 million annually to help close a gaping budget hole. In its first 12 months, the game had a profit of only $30 million. Strickland is back at it, expecting video slot terminals at horse tracks to realize $933 million for Ohio. And the stateís largest police labor organization now pins its hopes on casinos.
Youíd think public officials would pay some heed to what gambling executives were saying last year. Executives at top casino companies said fewer people were patronizing their facilities, and those who were going to casinos were spending less.
Itís a recession. People arenít spending as freely. Rather than looking for yet another revenue silver bullet ó all the previous ones having been blanks ó officials should address the issue from the spending side.