Three card monte Featured

11:08am EDT January 25, 2005
There's word at city hall of a new miracle drug that will surely cure Cleveland's economic woes. It's called a casino, and Mayor Jane Campbell has announced she will spearhead efforts to put on the ballot in November 2005 an initiative to change Ohio's constitution and legalize casino gambling.

I have nothing against gambling. Not only did I vote for the constitutional amendment the last two times around, I also enjoy a good game of cards.

However, I refuse to drink the Kool Aid and join the club that asserts a casino will help this region's economy more than, say, targeted business incentives designed to attract and retain companies and jobs. You only need to look at Akron and Mayor Don Plusquellic to see successful business development initiatives at work -- minus the casino.

It's no secret that Mayor Campbell has begun contemplating her re-election campaign and that voters aren't exactly enamored with the results of her first term. So accomplishing something "big" might create momentum that could sweep her back into office.

Unfortunately, this casino rhetoric sounds hauntingly familiar to the doomed convention center argument: "It works for everybody else; why shouldn't it work for us?

Proponents claim a casino will keep local gamblers from taking their chips out of state and also attract out-of-region gamblers, who would add Cleveland to their "gambling junket" city list. Studies may support this notion, but remember, studies also pronounced drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex safe and effective.

To be fair, I also don't subscribe to the opponents' just-as-ludicrous claims that a casino will bring bad elements such as increased crime, drugs, prostitution or even a new class of gambling addicts. Drive by your local gas station and look at the long lines in front of the Ohio Lottery machine. Ardent gamblers already exist in today's society, and they're seeking a visit from Lady Luck every week.

So why my opposition?

Because the time has come for politicians to stop trotting out one panacea after another rather than taking the time to develop and present sound, long-range business development plans. Instead, this proposal smacks of both political and economic desperation. And we simply deserve better.