Just say ‘no’ to casinos’ demands

As revenue continues to drop at Ohio casinos and horse race tracks, beware of how the state legislature responds. And look no further than West Virginia for a preview.

Gambling proprietors in West Virginia are beneficiaries of enormous gifts bestowed upon them by politicians. Voters never had a say in the matter. With fewer gamblers going to the casino/racetracks because of competition in other states, it is likely the gambling interests will be going to state legislatures for more help.

Legalized gambling in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia have hurt each other. That has reduced the states’ share of their profits. The subject was addressed earlier this month before a gathering of journalists in South Charleston, W.Va.

Among those participating in a panel discussion on the topic was John Cavacini, president of the West Virginia Racing Association. To continue attracting gamblers, the casino/racetracks will have to keep upgrading their facilities and offering amenities to visitors, he said. One key is up-to-date slot machines, he noted.

Look for the casino operators to seek new subsidies from the state to accomplish that – though they already benefit from a 10-year, $100 million tax break helping them to acquire new slot machines.

Also, expect the horse- and dog-racing industries to insist that without them, many gamblers would stay away from the casino/racetracks. That is not true.

Entirely aside from the help West Virginia gives the casino/racetracks themselves, it pumps millions of dollars into subsidies for the horse- and dog-racing industries.

While they were at it, officials in Ohio and elsewhere granted the casinos a virtual monopoly, giving them exclusive rights to offer gambling. No other business enjoys that government-mandated exclusivity in these states. No other business exists almost entirely through subsidies such as those paid to the horse- and dog-racing interests in some of these states. No other business has the audacity to take the gifts legislators already have handed out – and ask for more.

Had voters been asked about all of this, it is quite likely their answer would have been “no.”

Rather than bowing to demands for more help for the gambling and racing industries, legislators in these states should just say “no.”