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Looking to Ohio on gambling issue

October 26, 2009

Kentucky voters could be following in the footsteps of those in Ohio next year, if the Kentucky General Assembly approves a constitutional amendment regarding gambling next year.

Ohio voters will be heading to the polls next week to vote on whether to amend the state constitution to allow casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, and a recent survey shows support.

Last week, two Republican Kentucky senators, David Williams and Damon Thayer,  announced plans to offer constitutional amendments next year that would make expanding gambling a constitutional issue to be decided by voters, and would offer a specific amendment allowing slot machines in the seven counties currently home to live horse racing.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear and Democratic leaders are pushing for the legislature to grant race tracks the right to have slot machines without changes to the Kentucky constitution.

In Ohio, the issue is casinos, not just slot machines.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, an Ohio Newspaper Poll found that Ohio voters favor an expanded gambling amendment by 57 percent to 39 percent, with 4 percent undecided.

But as the newspaper notes, early support for expanding gambling hasn’t followed through on Election Day. The state’s voters have turned back four attempts to expand gambling in the last two decades.

From the article –

“The environment has never been this positive this late in the game,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Institute of Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, which conducted both polls.

“The poll shows there’s a possibility to close this, but like everything else, it depends on turnout composition,” Rademacher said. “Opponents will need to ramp up the opposition. There’s going to need to be a higher profile advertising effort on the ‘no’ side. There’s certainly going to need to be a ramped-up effort on the part of political leaders who have come out against this issue, and I think with some of the local grassroots efforts, not only through organizations but through churches.

“They really have a lot of work to do.”

Backers of the casino issue, Penn National Gaming Inc. and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, have raised about $32 million to get their message out and are outspending opponents by about 6-to-1.

However, the main critic of Issue 3, TruthPAC says its internal polling shows the proposal is ahead by only seven points, 49 percent to 42 percent, and the margin is shrinking. TruthPAC is funded primarily by MTR Gaming Group, headed by Cleveland developer Jeff Jacobs.

The casino proponents do not release internal polling, a spokesman said.


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