Ohio AG approves casino petition language

Chris Rizo Apr. 3, 2009, 3:00pm

Richard Cordray (D)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray on Friday approved ballot language for a March constitutional amendment that would allow casino gambling in the state.

After rejecting the first attempt by organizers last month, in a letter to petitioners, the Democratic attorney general said he found their ballot summary language submitted to be a "fair and truthful statement of the measure to be proposed."

The petition now moves to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will determine whether the petition represents single or multiple constitutional amendments.

If approved by the Ballot Board, petitioners must then collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election. That means organizers must collect at least 402,275 valid signatures.

The proposal would allow casinos to be built in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Proponents say the plan would create some-20,000 new jobs in the economically troubled Buckeye State.

The $1 billion plan would be bankrolled by Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming Inc. and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team majority owner Dan Gilbert.

Cordray had previously rejected the ballot language, saying the petition did not specify the location of the casinos and that the measure would exempt gambling winnings from taxation, which would mark a change in state law.

"Because such a change would seem to be material to an average voter, I conclude that the summary must specifically inform potential signors of the petition that the proposed amendment would exempt income from taxation that is currently subject to both the Ohio state income tax and some municipal income taxes," Cordray wrote at the time.

Ohio voters have rejected four proposals to allow casino gambling in the state, most recently in the November general election. For his part, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has said he is opposed to expanded gambling in the state.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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