COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio voters strongly support a proposal to put casinos in fourcities less than two months before they head to the polls to decidea gambling question for the fifth time in 20 years, a poll releasedSunday found.
The Ohio Newspaper poll, commissioned by eight newspapers andconducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University ofCincinnati, found that 59 percent of registered voters supportIssue 3 on the Nov. 3 ballot. Thirty-eight percent oppose the planto put casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
The widespread support for the expansion of gambling reflectedin the poll does not necessarily mean it will prove successful onElection Day. Ohio voters have defeated gambling measures fourtimes, beginning in 1990, and some of have received strong supportin pre-election polls only to be defeated.
But a key difference this year is the economy, said EricRademacher, co-director of the Institute for Policy Research at theUniversity of Cincinnati. Ohio's unemployment rate in August was10.8 percent, nearly four points higher than it was last Novemberwhen voters defeated a proposal to build a casino in Clinton Countyin southwest Ohio.
Voters could back casinos this time "if they believe gamblingwill make a difference in improving Ohio's economy," Rademachersaid.
The poll found that were more likely to view gambling as a wayto help Ohio's economy than making it worse, by a measure of 55percent to 23 percent. Nineteen percent said it would have noeffect.
Despite the overall support for the casino proposal, more than80 percent of poll respondents said they would seldom or nevervisit the casinos.
Sponsors of the casino plan, Penn National Gaming and DanGilbert, the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, say thecasinos would create 34,000 jobs and bring in $651 million a yearin tax revenue. Opponents say the plan is a bad deal for Ohio sincethe 33 percent proposed tax rate is lower than in many otherstates.
James Jensen, a lawyer in Columbus, is leaning toward supportingthe proposal because, "I like to gamble."
But he isn't buying the casinos as economic fixer.
"Frankly, it doesn't bring any good jobs into an area. The taxrevenues are really minimal. With casinos invariably come crime andgambling problems. Gambling is no panacea for state budgetwoes."
However, the economic argument sways other voters.
"It would really boost up Cleveland. We need that shot," saidDavid Kolarik Jr., 51, a construction worker from Laborers Local310 in Cleveland.
The poll found that voters younger than 30 were more likely thanolder voters to oppose Issue 3, and were more likely to believecasinos would increase gambling addiction.
It also provides a boost to Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to putslot machines at Ohio's horse racing tracks, with 62 percent ofrespondents favoring the plan. However, the Ohio Supreme Court hasruled the proposal is subject to a referendum by voters, and itsfuture is uncertain.
The poll, which interviewed 713 respondents from Sept. 16 toSept. 22, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentagepoints.
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