Monday, June 14, 2010

Strickland signs casino rules, with reservations

On Thursday, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed House Bill 519 (H.B. 519) into law, establishing implementation rules for the state's four casinos.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic state representatives Kenny Yuko (Richmond Heights) and Todd Book (McDermott) establishes a seven-member Ohio Casino Control Commission. It also creates a Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering, comprised of Ohio House and Senate members who will review all legislation related to casino gaming.

"This legislation establishes a regulatory structure to protect the interests of Ohioans and make sure that casinos are operated with high levels of integrity, while maintaining local control and decision-making authority," Strickland said in a media release. "I believe it will facilitate the creation of Ohio jobs and economic opportunity in our communities."

The bill also requires licensure by managers, operators and various employees. Operator's licenses could bring the state $6 million in operating funds.

Additionally, the bill:

  • Appropriates $50 million to the Ohio Co-op Internship Program and $50 million to the Workforce Development Program. Of the latter program, there will be a 50-50 split between rural and urban areas;
  • Provides guarantees that churches, veteran's and fraternal organizations can continue charitable activities such as bingo and other games of chance; and
  • Sets a drinking age of 21, with no complimentary drinks and no sales past 2:30 a.m.
Strickland, however, expressed dismay at the included income tax deduction for gambling losses on bets placed at casinos, horse tracks, bingo halls, and other forms of gaming.

"This new tax deduction represents a policy shift for the state of Ohio, which has never before used its income tax laws to subsidize losses incurred from gambling," Strickland said.

Strickland said that the Ohio Department of Taxation estimates that this could reduce the state budget by between $60 million and $80 million per budget cycle, starting in fiscal year 2014.

"At a time of economic challenge, it is deeply irresponsible to deprive our state of needed resources that could be used to help meet the many needs which exist within our communities," he said. "I question the judgment of those who promoted this special interest legislation.

But with the state lacking a line-item veto law, Strickland either had to approve the measure as-is or veto it altogether.

"If I had the authority to exercise a line-item veto on this provision of the bill, I would have," he said. "I will be working diligently to reverse this fiscally irresponsible and misguided decision in budget discussions next year. Subsidizing gambling losses is not a wise use of our taxpayer's limited resources."

H.B. 519 becomes law on August 8.

Ohio's horse tracks are considering a statewide ballot issue in 2011 to repeal H.B. 519 in an effort to gain either a piece of casino profits or permission to add slot machines on site.

Previous reading on BC:
Casino on the agenda for upcoming 'Power Breakfast' (4/22/10)



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