The following column by State Representative Marlene Anielski was submitted by her office to Patch:
Establishing Laws Necessary for Ohio’s Casino Operation
As casinos are in the process of being built in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati, the Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that further implements and clarifies issues associated with gambling. Among the provisions in House Bill 386 are establishing new laws to casinos, video lottery terminals, horse racing and the state lottery.
The bill primarily established language and guidelines that are necessary before the casinos can officially open later this year. The existence of casinos in Ohio can go a long way toward improving our economy both by giving Ohioans the opportunity to work in the casinos and by keeping more money inside the state’s borders, as opposed to people traveling to neighboring states to gamble.
In order to experience the economic benefits, however, the casinos must be strictly monitored and regulated. Furthermore, we must do everything in our power to ensure that Ohio families do not fall victim to the perils of gambling addiction. Some of the money received by taxing the casinos will be used to help those struggling with gambling addiction. Again, the genesis of casinos in Ohio does not mean that the issue of gambling addiction was never before seen in this state. In the past, Ohioans went across the border to places like West Virginia, Michigan or Indiana to gamble and then would travel back home to Ohio. Now, these individuals will be encouraged to keep their money in Ohio and tax revenue can be generated from it. To that end, the director of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services will complete a study to identify the current status of gaming addiction in Ohio.
Among other things, HB 386 provides substantial oversight of our state’s casinos. For example, it authorizes the Inspector General to investigate employees in the Attorney General’s Office who are carrying out the duties of enforcing the Casino Law. Most importantly, however, this gives these two offices the opportunity to work together and to improve upon existing laws affecting Ohio’s casinos.
Another interesting aspect of the bill is that it also simplifies the definition of “charitable organizations” and their ability to conduct games of chance, such as various forms of bingo. Finally, HB 386 extends by two hours the time period during which a charitable organization may conduct a bingo session. By extending the hours in which bingo sessions may be conducted, the local charitable organizations should be able to increase the amount of money that they raise.
As construction of Ohio’s four casinos nears its conclusion and will ultimately be opening in the near future, it was critical that the Ohio General Assembly establish regulations and guidelines that will make the operation of these casinos not only possible, but also fair. I believe we accomplished these objectives through HB 386. Ohio voters expressed their support for casinos in the state on the ballot years ago, and we are getting very close to fulfilling that directive.