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Ohio Casino Deal Abandons the Rule of Law
June 15 2011

Rob Walgate, 1-800-522-8683

In response to Governor Kasich’s news conference today, the Ohio Roundtable issued the following statement:

Cleveland, Ohio - In November 2009 Ohioans passed a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling. The state constitution, much like the federal constitution, is a sacred compact of the citizens. It is the controlling authority for law and practice in this state. When the people choose to amend their constitution it is imperative that all branches of the government abide by this highest ruling authority in the state.

The 2009 casino amendment, which the Roundtable opposed, was written by the casino industry. The gambling interests advocating passage of the amendment wrote every word, paid millions for their campaign and won an election. The voters approved state Issue 3 and the language, written by the casino industry, which is now the final word on casino gambling in Ohio. Those words can only be changed by the legal process of further amendments.

That language of Issue 3 specifically fails to exempt the casinos from paying the Ohio Commercial Activity Tax on gross revenues. The amendment specifically binds the casinos to pay all taxes levied in general against any other Ohio business. The Commercial Activity Tax clearly fits into this most obvious description.

The Governor needs no other language to enforce the CAT tax on the casinos. They enforced it upon themselves in the construction of their own amendment which the voters approved. The failure to collect the CAT tax would be a violation of the Ohio Constitution and state statutes.

The Governor has consistently stated that he is trying to “get a better deal” for Ohio. We agree. Issue 3 is a very bad deal for Ohio; however, it is the law of the land. It cannot be changed by back room deals. If the Governor is serious about getting a better deal for Ohio, he should ask the legislature to place an amendment on the ballot to reconstruct Issue 3. He could do this in very short order, taking less time and money than all the back room deals have spent to date.

In addition, any “deal” to place slot machines at Ohio race tracks is a clear violation of the Ohio Revised Code and the Constitution. Such a practice cannot become legal by edict of the Governor or any “deal” struck with casino operators. If the Governor wants to open racetrack casinos with Vegas-style slot machines, he is required by law to take such a proposal to the voters.

Furthermore, the notion that the Governor can issue a “moratorium” on expanding gambling sites by edict is equally legally absurd. By what authority does this Governor or any governor suggest the right to grant casino operations to some people but not to others? Why are only certain cities being chosen? Why a ten-year moratorium? Why not twenty years or one hundred years?

For over thirty years the Ohio Roundtable has opposed casino gambling based on the failed economic promises and the inevitable political corruption that historically attends legalized gambling. Sadly, the current actions of the Governor and the casino industry are indicative of the grossest form of political corruption – the disregard of the rule of law by those in power. Only 18 months after the passage of Ohio Issue 3, the Governor is caught up in closed-door deal making with the casino industry. There have been no legislative or public hearings on these deals. Outside consultants have been hired who stand to make millions pending the outcomes of such deals. The people of Ohio, their Constitution and their representative government are left standing on the curb.

Regardless of the Governor’s intentions, the rule of law cannot be displaced for any crisis, community, or convenience. Every Governor swears an oath of office to uphold and defend the Ohio Constitution. If the Governor wants to assist the casino industry, facilitate racetrack casinos, and promote more gambling in Ohio, he has every right to do so according to the rule of law. Neither this governor, nor any future governor has the right, however, to take the law into his own hands and overrule the Constitution of the people of Ohio.

Today’s actions by the Governor sadly prove once again that casino gambling and good government don’t mix.

The Ohio Roundtable is a division of The American Policy Roundtable founded in 1980. The Roundtable is a non-profit, independent public policy organization. For more information please contact Mr. Rob Walgate, Vice-President of the Ohio Roundtable, at 1.800.522.VOTE (8683).

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