Sunday, June 26, 2011

Casino developers bet Kasich wasn't bluffing

Originally published in the Bargain Hunter June 24.

Time will tell whether his poll numbers will improve, but I’ve got to give some props to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Regular readers of this space know that I’ve been a little tough on the governor, criticizing his bull-in-a-china-shop style, his seemingly disregard for teachers and his apparent shifting of the tax burden from state government to local governments.

But I have to give him credit when he deserves it. And this week, he deserves it.

His bully-pulpit strategy with the casino owners-developers was at first widely criticized by the masses as an unwelcome intrusion into a deal that was struck by voters when they passed the constitutional amendment allowing casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Kasich’s bluster – he thought the casinos ought to kick back more money to the taxpayers – this time was blamed for stopping construction of the “temporary” casino being constructed within the old Higbee’s building on Public Square in Cleveland.

It didn’t take long for the TV stations to swing into action with man-on-the-street interviews after Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ohio Caesars LLC halted work.

“A deal is a deal,” was a typical reaction.  “Kasich should butt out.”

What the public failed to remember was that the constitutional amendment was written by the casino interests and in their interest. It wasn’t a great deal for the taxpayers.

After listening to Kasich’s presumably forceful argument, the casino developers – Rock Ohio Caesars LLC (Cleveland and Cincinnati) and Penn National Gaming (Columbus and Toledo) – both agreed to pay the state $110 million in addition to what that constitutional amendment wanted them to pay.

The constitutional amendment only required the developers to pay the state a one-time $50 million licensing fee and an ongoing 33 percent casino tax.

In a statement, Kasich said, "I know that many thought it was futile to push the gaming companies for a better deal, but the governor's job isn't just to enforce laws, it's also to make sure they benefit Ohioans in the greatest possible way."

The Kasich deal also allows Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks to add slot machines as long as there are significant property upgrades. That part of the deal allows cities such as Dayton and Youngstown to share in any prosperity that gaming will bring to Ohio.

(Of course, there’s some question about whether gambling will produce the projected revenue and jobs. Ohioans don’t have to travel very far now to satisfy their gambling entertainment needs. All neighboring states except Kentucky allow gambling in some form.)

The overall verdict on Kasich’s job as governor won’t be in for a few more years, but you can move the casino deal to the positive column now.


Meanwhile, the state is poised to allow guns in bars, stadiums and restaurants and to allow fracking for natural gas in state parks while requiring all voters to show a photo ID in order to cast election ballots.

Is it just me or has the General Assembly lost its marbles?

Here’s what we need to figure out in Ohio (short list):

–How to keep manufacturing jobs from leaving Ohio for China.

–How to stimulate an anemic housing market that is keeping Ohio from sharing in any recovery.

–How to eliminate blighted neighborhoods in our largest cities.

–How to better educate the children in our six largest school districts.

–How to create the necessary jobs to keep our college-educated young people from leaving the state in droves like they are doing now.

Some of the other stuff can wait. And do you really want to see a retention pond in a state park? Come on.


Every time a school administrator or coach retires and then gets rehired, the public goes crazy. It’s not fair, the public argues, because the educators/coaches are now being paid by two sources – the State Teachers Retirement System and their local school district – and are, in effect, doubling their income.

School districts say the move saves them money while retaining quality administrators/coaches. But the public doesn’t buy into that argument. It’s just not fair to the young people hunting jobs. If someone wants to take their retirement, then retire. It would allow for more movement in the ranks.

I don’t have a defense for double-dipping. But if I were in a position to work such a deal, I probably would.

Perhaps the loophole that permits double-dipping ought to be closed. There’s something for the Legislature to think about.

Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at You can read his blog at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

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