Company seeking support for casinos at seven racetracks and three other sites

Another proposal to legalize casinos in Ohio is being floated by Penn National Gaming, which reportedly helped defeat last November’s voter referendum to allow a single casino in the state near Wilmington by funding opposition groups.

A lobbyist for Penn National was reported by the Columbus Dispatch to be talking to Ohio lawmakers to secure support for a ballot initiative that would permit casinos to be built at the state’s seven racetracks and at stand-alone sites in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. Penn National owns Raceway Park in Toledo.

The proposal would permit more casinos in Ohio than the expanded measure being floated by MyOhioNow, chief sponsor behind last November’s State Issue 6 referendum, which will call for casinos in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown. Both ballot proposals are targeted for voter consideration next November.

Principals of MyOhioNow have indicated they find it ironic that Penn National is pushing a casino legalization measure as the Pennsylvania-based company reportedly spent $36 million to defeat State Issue 6, reportedly to protect its Argosy Casino in nearby Lawrenceburg, Ind., from competition from the proposed $600 million Wilmington casino. With Penn National pushing its own casino referendum, church-affiliated anti-casino groups say it will be much harder to get the same overwhelming 62-percent “no” vote by which State Issue 6 was defeated.

Opposition to Ohio casinos appears to be softening. Faced with $7 billion state budget shortfall, Gov. Ted Strickland told the Cincinnati Enquirer that while he in still against expanding gambling, “it would be unwise, and perhaps even inappropriate not to consider contrary arguments.”