Ohio Casino Measure, Issue 6 (2008)

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The Ohio Casino Amendment, also known as Issue 6, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Ohio as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.[1] This amendment would have authorized the construction of a privately-owned, $600,000,000 casino near Wilmington, Ohio.

A total of $62.2 million was spent on the campaigns for and against Issue 6, more than doubling the previous record for the most-expensive campaign in Ohio history. Casino supporters spent $12.97 per "yes" vote while opponents spent $10.90 for each "no" vote.[2]

Election results

Ohio Issue 6 (2008)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No3,352,93162.85%
Yes 1,981,490 37.15%

Election results via the Ohio Secretary of State.[3]

Text of measure

See also: Ohio Constitution, Article XV, Section 6

The language appeared on the ballot as:[4]

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION BY INITIATIVE PETITION FOR A CASINO NEAR WILMINGTON IN SOUTHWEST OHIO AND DISTRUBUTE TO ALL OHIO COUNTIES A TAX ON THE CASINO

(Proposed by Initiative Petition)

To adopt section 6a to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution. This proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution would:

  1. Authorize one privately owned casino with a required minimum initial investment of $600 million dollars on a 94-acre site located near the northwest corner of State Route 73 and Interstate 71 in southwest Ohio in Chester Township near Wilmington, Clinton County, Ohio.
  2. Require the casino to pay a tax of up to 30% on its gross receipts for gaming less payouts. The taxes are to be used first to pay expenses of regulating and collecting taxes from the casino, then for funding of gambling prevention and treatment programs, and the remainder to be distributed in the amount of 10% to Clinton County and 90% to the remaining counties based on population and to be used at each county’s discretion.
  3. Reduce the tax paid by the casino authorized by this amendment to the lesser of the rate taxed on another casino or 25%, in the event another casino is permitted in Ohio in the future.
  4. Require that the casino be subject to all other applicable types of taxes that are currently in effect in Ohio.
  5. Authorize the casino to conduct any game permitted in the State of Nevada, or any state adjacent to Ohio, including any type of card or table games, slot machines, and electronic gaming devices, except bets on races or sporting events. Only persons age 21 and over would be permitted to place bets. Amounts of bets would not be subject to any limits now or in the future. Days and hours of operation would not be subject to limits.
  6. Set aside the application to the casino of all local and state laws and any constitutional provisions that would prohibit the operation of this privately owned casino, including any local zoning law that would prohibit or place restrictions on a casino from operating on the property in question.

If approved, this proposed amendment shall take effect 30 days after the election.

A “YES” vote means you approve of amending the Ohio Constitution to permit one casino near Wilmington in southwest Ohio.
A “NO” vote means you disapprove of amending the Ohio Constitution to permit one casino near Wilmington in southwest Ohio.

A majority YES vote is required for the amendment to be adopted.
Shall the proposed amendment be approved? [5]

Background

The proposed casino would have been a 97-acre complex off Interstate 71 near Wilmington with up to 5,000 slot machines and 120 table games. As envisioned, the casino complex would have been larger than any single casino in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis or Minneapolis.[6]

The campaign over the casino measure was fierce and expensive. The total amount spent, pro and con, exceeded $50 million by late October, making it one of the most expensive ballot issue campaigns in the country. Lawsuits and legal complaints were also not in short supply.

October's lawsuit duel

Lawsuit against "No on 6"

On October 24, supporters of Issue 6 filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County court of common pleas, naming the "No on 6" campaign and Penn National Gaming, Inc.(the major donor to "No on 6") as defendants. The lawsuit charges that the television advertising campaign of the "No on 6" forces contains false and defamatory statements.[7]

The lawsuit came after a decision reached on October 23 by a panel of the Ohio Elections Commission to the effect that there is probable cause to believe that the advertising run by the "No on 6" campaign includes some false statements. The 3-person election panel voted 2-1 in reaching this decision; the next step is for the full seven-member Commission to consider the charges.[8]

The statements in the "No on 6" ads that are controversial are:

  • The claim that under Issue 6, there is "no set tax" that owners of the proposed casino would have to pay;
  • The claim that if Issue 6 passes, it would take hundreds of millions of dollars in profits out of the state every year.[9]

The "No on 6" side says it believes it will prevail in the hearing before the full commission. It says that the claim it is making in advertising that hundreds of millions of dollars in profits will leave Ohio if Issue 6 passes is based on the fact that the group that would own the new casino, Lakes Entertainment, is located in Minnesota, so most of the eventual profits from the casino would, in that sense, go out of state. The "Yes on 6" side contends, in opposition, that "the phrase, 'taking millions of dollars a year out of Ohio,' is absolutely false."[10]

Lawsuit against pro-6 campaign

On October 24, Penn National Gaming, Inc. said that it will soon file two lawsuits. One is against MyOhioNow PAC, the main supporters of Issue 6, and three individuals who are key leaders in the pro-Issue 6 campaign. This lawsuit says that certain television advertising supported by the defendants is false and defamatory.

A second lawsuit will be filed by Penn National against MyOhioNow for, as a press release says, "continuing to try to deceive the voters of Ohio by perpetuating in its press statements the blatantly false and misleading claim that the proposed casino 'must pay a 30% gross gaming win tax.'."[11]

Path to the ballot

On Tuesday, August 5, 2008, the group My Ohio Now delivered 800,000 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. The organization went well over the minimum number 402,275 petitioners and will likely have more than enough votes to put the measure on the ballot on November 4 ballot.

The organization released a statement:

"This has been an exciting opportunity to reach out to Ohio voters in all 88 counties. The response has been overwhelmingly favorable. We are very appreciative of the effort of hundreds of Ohioans who have helped us in this effort to place this issue on the November 4th ballot. Ohioans are excited for this positive economic news. The prospect of up to 5000 new jobs is a bright spot in a year in which we have faced so much financial adversity and challenges. We look forward to a positive and honest campaign to get the support of Ohio voters. We look towards our opposition to come from casinos in states that neighbor Ohio, as they have enjoyed the economic benefits from Ohioans for many years. When this issue passes, their free lunch will end," said Rick Lertzman, co-founder of MyOhioNow.com.[12][13]

Arno Political Consultants is the petition drive management company collecting signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.[14]

Opponents want issue off ballot

A newly formed opposition group is asking Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to keep the initiative off the ballot and filed a formal protest Monday. The No on Issue 6 Campaign -- which is backed by owners of the Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana -- seek to have the petition signatures gathered by the Ohio casino group invalidated and the issue removed from the ballot.

The Ohio voter filing the protest, Andy Bowers, is the treasurer for the anti- campaign, which opposes the creation of the $600 million casino project in Wilmington.

In his protest, Bowers alleges that MyOhioNow and the people it hired to do its signature-collecting failed to file the needed paperwork before beginning the collection of the first 1,000 signatures in late 2007, a requirement under Ohio law.

"The argument in the filing is that a step was missed and the entire process was invalid," said the anti-casino group spokesman Bob Tennenbaum.

Failing to file the paperwork before collecting signatures is a first-degree misdemeanor and all petitions gathered without the paperwork in place "shall be deemed invalid," according to state law.[15]

Measure certified; protest fails

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office certified that MyOhioNow.com, the committee pitching the casino, submitted 480,003 valid signatures on their petition -- about 75,000 more than the minimum to qualify.

Brunner also tossed a protest by an anti-casino group, No on 6, that said that some petition circulators had failed to fill out necessary paperwork.

Brunner noted that the No on 6 group had months to question the petition circulation process but failed to do so.[16]

The group also noted a poll from the Wilmington News Journal that said 63% of Ohioans favor the casino.[17]

Indictments

Three circulators involved in a fraud ring have been indicted on criminal charges. Joe Copija, Roderice Cortez Lacy and Deborah Ramirez, who all live in California, are thought to have circulated illegal petitions in support of the Ohio Issue 6 for the November 2008 general election. They are accused of breaking Ohio residency requirements and paying in-staters to sign off on their own work.[18]

The state of Ohio now forbids out-of-state circulators to petition in Ohio.

Support

Clinton County, site of proposed casino

My Ohio Now is sponsoring the initiative. The group is run by Dr. Bradford Pressman and Rick A. Lertzman. Lakes Entertainment Inc. and their Chief Executive, Lyle Berman, joined the effort in May 2008.[19]

Arguments in favor of Issue 6

Notable arguments made in favor of passing Issue 6 included:

  • It would bring 5,000 jobs to Ohio. As the economy is declining, proponents of Issue 6 are making this a main focus of their campaign.[20]
  • The casino would generate $800 million a year in revenue, with $240 million to be split among Ohio counties based on population.[21]
  • Ohioans who currently leave the state to gamble at casinos in other states, such as the Argosy Casino in Indiana, 30 miles from downtown Cincinnati, will instead stay in Ohio to gamble.

Campaign contributions

The casino interests backing Ohio 6 put $26 million into the campaign to pass the measure, about $10 million less than was spent by their opponents.[2]

Opposition

Historically, gambling initiatives have not fared well in Ohio. Voters have rejected similar measure three times, most recently in 2006.[22]

The three main sources of opposition to Issue 6 were No on 6, Vote No Casinos, and UNITE Here, which is a union representing workers at casino-related industries.[23][24]

The "No on 6" group was primarily sponsored by Penn National Gaming, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based casino company that operates one casino in Indiana, less than 30 miles from downtown Cincinnati. Its motivation for opposing Issue 6 is seen as trying to eliminate a potential competitor.[25]

The "Vote No Casinos" group has been described as "a cash-poor anti-gambling group;" this group's motivation for opposing Issue 6 is that it opposes gambling on moral and economic grounds. The theme of a new series of ads it ran was "Gambling ruins lives." David Zanotti is the leader of this group. Zanotti is also the president of The American Policy Roundtable, which is regarded as having spearheaded successful opposition to prior casino initiatives in the state.

Arguments in opposition

Notable arguments made against Issue 6 include:

  • It is a $1 billion give-away to a private casino company; if there is to be another casino, the state of Ohio could sell the right to open one for up to $1 billion.[26]
  • The proposal would give a monopoly on casino gambling to one company, and the casino would pay virtually nothing under the proposal to the state of Ohio for the privilege. Some states have charged in the hundreds of millions for extending a similar privilege to casinos.
  • The claim that it would bring crime and cause families to lose money they need for basic household expenses.[27]
  • The wording of the initiative allows loopholes for more than one casino to be built in the state by Indian tribes. Opponents argue the measure would provide a boost to an Oklahoma-based Indian tribe that's been struggling for years to win federal approval to open one or more casinos in Ohio. If the Eastern Shawnee tribe succeeds, the wording of Issue 6 would allow the operators of the Clinton County casino to lower their tax rate from the 30 percent in the ballot measure to as little as zero.
  • "It causes tremendous concern in the community and generates a tremendous need for social services that need to be provided."
  • "If Indian casinos locate in Ohio and are taxed at the federal rate of zero, I think under terms of the amendment, the tax rate on the casino would drop to zero and the counties would get nothing," said D. Michael Grodhaus, attorney for the Vote No Casinos group.[28]
  • The UNITE Here union believes the new casino would be non-union and that the jobs would not pay as well as its supporters have been saying.

Campaign contributions

Opponents of Ohio 6 put $36 million into the campaign to defeat the measure, about $10 million more than was spent by their opponents.[2]

Most of the donations came from Penn National Gaming. In Maryland, Penn National Gaming is on the opposite side of the casino issue; there, the organization has donated $1,000,000 to the effort to pass the Maryland Casino Measure, Question 2.

Polls

See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
Month of Poll Polling company In Favor Opposed Undecided
August 2008 Quinnipiac University Polling Institute 60% 35% 5%
September 2008 Columbus Dispatch 50% 41% 9%
September 2008 SurveyUSA 62% 31% 7%[29]

The September poll conducted by the Columbus Dispatch was of about 2,300 Ohioans likely to vote; it was conducted from Sept. 24-Oct. 3.

Newspaper editorial positions

Editorial boards in favor

No major Ohio newspapers were in favor of Issue 6.

Editorial boards opposed

The Youngstown Vindicator was opposed to Issue 6, saying, "We remain convinced that regardless of the additional tax revenue promised by casino operators, the social costs of gambling are, in the end, higher. Casino gambling is the biggest redistribution of wealth scheme ever invented; it takes from the poor and gives to the rich."[30]

The Cleveland Plain Dealer was opposed to Issue 6 saying, "[E]ven if the [tax] estimate is solid (foes say it can't be), that's just 5 cents a day per resident. If that's a windfall, ping-pong balls are hailstones... For Greater Clevelanders, Issue 6 may offer a marginal upside -- additional cash for Cuyahoga County's government. But it also offers a major downside -- geography. A casino 200 miles from Cleveland won't stanch the flow to Detroit and Erie of Greater Cleveland entertainment dollars. The Plain Dealer recommends a "no" vote on Issue 6."[31]

The Zanesville Times Recorder was opposed, saying, "The only way to keep the house from winning your money is not to play. Any initiative written by gaming interests is a bad bet for Ohio."[32]

The Toledo Blade was opposed, saying that a gambling casino monopoly should not be enshrined in Ohio's Constitution. "Ohio's economy cannot be rebuilt by taking advantage of human frailty, only by encouraging industries that create good jobs producing beneficial products. And its Constitution should not be cluttered with special-interest provisions."[33]

The Chilliclothe Gazette was opposed, saying, "...the current ballot issue is too risky - one our state shouldn't take.[34]

Other Ohio casino initiatives

Ohio voters have rejected three previous ballot initiatives that tried to authorize casinos in the state, most recently in 2006:

See also

External links

Basic information

Supporters

Opponents

Additional reading

References

  1. Ohio Secretary of State, "2008 Official Election Results," accessed July 30, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Columbus Dispatch, "2 ballot issues cost $82 million," December 13, 2008
  3. Ohio Secretary of State, "A History of Statewide Issue Votes in Ohio," accessed July 30, 2013
  4. Ohio Issues Report, "State Issues Ballot Information for the November 4, 2008 General Election," accessed July 30, 2013
  5. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. "Issue 6: High stakes in casino vote"
  7. Dayton Business Journal, "Ohio casino backers sue Argosy's owner," October 24, 2008
  8. WNEWSJ, "Merit found in complaint against "No on 6," October 24, 2008
  9. Dayton Daily News, "Elections commission to have hearing on casino ad," October 23, 2008
  10. Columbus Dispatch, "Gamblers win one," October 23, 2008
  11. MarketWatch, "Penn National Gaming to File Lawsuit Against MyOhioNow PAC and Sponsors of Issue 6 for Libel and Defamation," October 24, 2008
  12. Cleveland Leader: "800,000 Signatures Delievered to Ohio Secretary of State for Casino Gambling Initiative," August 5th, 2008
  13. Plain Dealer blog: "Casino backers say they have twice the signatures needed for ballot measure," August 4, 2008
  14. Wilmington News Journal, "Signatures sought for Wilmington casino," July 29, 2008
  15. The Plain Dealer: "Could casino issue be thrown off the ballot?," September 23, 2008
  16. Columbus Dispatch: "Casino makes the ballot," September 25, 2008
  17. My Ohio Now
  18. The News-Herald, "3 indicted in petition scandal," June 23, 2009
  19. CasinoGamblingWeb.com: "Lakes Entertainment Inc. Joining Ohio Casino Effort," CasinoGamblingWeb.com Gambling News, May 1, 2008
  20. Columbus Dispatch, "Economic arguments at center of Issue 6 debate," October 25, 2008
  21. Columbus Dispatch, "Casino proposal holding top hand," October 6, 2008
  22. WKYZ News, "Another step in newest push for an Ohio casino," Dec. 11, 2007
  23. Cleveland Plain Dealer, "UNITE HERE union opposes Ohio ballot issue to allow casino," October 21, 2008
  24. Casino City Times, "Casino union opposes Ohio ballot measure," October 21, 2008
  25. Columbus Dispatch, "Second group joining ad fight against casino," October 17, 2008
  26. Biz Journals, "Report: Casino issue a $1B ‘giveaway’ to backers," October 14, 2008
  27. TribuneChronicle.com: "Gambling supporters visit Mahoning Valley," The Tribune Chronicle, May 3, 2008
  28. Columbus Dispatch: "3 Indian casinos possible in Ohio?," August 23, 2008
  29. USA Trotting Association, "Maryland and Ohio gambling measures are favored," October 23, 2008
  30. Youngstown Vindicator, "Vote No on 6," October 5, 2008
  31. Cleveland Plain Dealer, "No on Issue 6: a downstate casino would do Cleveland too little good," September 29, 2008
  32. Zanesville Times Recorder, "Issue 6 a bad bet for Ohio," October 22, 2008
  33. The Blade, "No on 6; Yes on 5," October 23, 2008
  34. Chilliclothe Gazette, "Issue 6 wrong approach"