A group that wants to build a casino in southwestern Ohio has submitted nearly double the number of signatures required to put the issue before voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.

A group that wants to build a casino in southwestern Ohio has submitted nearly double the number of signatures required to put the issue before voters on the Nov. 4 ballot, according to the Ohio Secretary of State.

The proposed initiative would amend the Ohio Constitution by allowing a single $600-million gambling complex in Clinton County. The Vegas-like casino would include up to 5,000 slot machines, 150 gaming tables for blackjack and craps, and a 20-table poker room. A luxury hotel, golf course and up to 10,000 square feet of retail space round out the plan.

County elections boards are verifying submitted signatures, and it's likely the initiative will appear on the ballot.

Supporters and opponents disagree over several fundamental issues, like whether the ballot language would create a gambling monopoly and if the benefits of tax revenue outweigh negative effects on Ohio's consumer economy.

Here's more about the controversial issue.

Haven't voters already turned down similar initiatives in the past?

Yes. Different casino proposals should sound familiar to Ohio voters - they've appeared on the ballot in 1990, 1996 and 2006 and were defeated soundly. If voters support the issue, Ohio would join 38 U.S. states with casinos, including Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Would money come to Columbus?

Yes. Estimates from similar operations peg annual casino revenue at about $800 million. The proposal would set up a gross-receipts tax of approximately 30 percent, and proceeds would be distributed to each of Ohio's 88 counties, based on population. Franklin County would receive about $19.8 million annually.

Is all the money for education?

No. Unlike the "Learn & Earn" campaign in 2006, each county would be free to spend the money as it sees fit.

Could this plan lead to Indian casinos in Ohio?

Potentially, but it's not likely. Indian casinos are approved in states where casino gambling is legal and where a tribe possesses federally recognized lands approved for gaming by the U.S. Department of the Interior. There are no such holdings in Ohio, and getting such land can be difficult.

Arguments for the casino

My Ohio Now - a partner of Lakes Entertainment, a tribal casino developer - argues that the plan has many economic benefits for Ohio. They say:

- An Ohio casino keeps gambling dollars - and tourists - in the state by preventing gamblers from heading to similar operations in nearby states.

- Ballot language allows for a single operation and prevents the proliferation of casinos elsewhere in the state.

- Because no federally recognized tribal lands exist in Ohio, an Indian casino is nearly impossible to start here.

Web: myohionow.com

Arguments against the casino

Several groups - including Vote No Casinos and the Ohio Roundtable - plan to lead the charge against the proposal. They say:

- Every dollar not gambled could be invested in the "normal consumer economy." Giving it to casino owners, based out of state, is counterproductive.

- Allowing only one casino uses the Ohio Constitution to create a monopoly for a private company.

- A "trapdoor" has been set to allow an Indian casino in Ohio. Then, because of federal gaming laws, operators could pay the much lower tax rate required of tribal operations.

Web: aproundtable.org, votenocasinos.com



Off and running, mate

As many with cell phones already know, on Saturday Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, a U.S. senator from Delaware, as his running mate. Here's more about the man who fills out the Democratic ticket.

Name: Joe Biden

Home: Wilmington, Delaware

Age: 65

Education: J.D., Syracuse University College of Law; B.A., University of Delaware

Political experience: U.S. Senate, 1973-present; New Castle County (Delaware) Council, 1970-72

Why he was chosen: He's dealt with issues in Washington and around the globe as chair of the Senate's foreign relations and judiciary committees. His blue-collar background connects to voters put off by Obama. He's sponsored numerous bills to fight crime and drug use, which could attract undecided, moderate voters.

Web: biden.senate.gov

Vote Yourself '08

If you've got a question you want answered in this column, click to ColumbusAlive.com/voteyourself.