Board of Regents will take a gamble

Ohio Issue 3 is a highly publicized constitutional amendment presented by race track owners and casino developers as a fundraiser for higher education. If passed, the amendment would permit up to 31,500 slot machines at seven horse racing tracks and two Cleveland non-track locations.

After the first two years allowed for recouping of costs, 30 percent of the revenues would be given to the Ohio Board of Regents for college scholarships. The remaining funds will go to state and local governments for economic development and 1 percent is allotted for gambling addiction prevention and treatment.

But according to Larry Weiss, associate vice president of university relations and governmental affairs at the University, the wording of the amendment doesn’t ensure help for all students.

“For the first 12 years, after the initial two year recoup period – so until 2021 – only the top 5 percent of each high school class will get a scholarship worth the average tuition of the top 14 four-year public college in the state. After those 12 years, the amendment doesn’t say what will happen to the money,” he said.

Weiss said the BGSU Board of Trustees hasn’t taken a stance and will remain neutral because this is a moral issue that should be left up to voters.

Trustees at Ohio State University have, on the other hand, declared they are opposed. In addition, both candidates for Ohio governor – Republican Kenneth Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland – are opposed.

Many opponents of the bill cite the constitutional amendment form of this issue as a major problem. Weiss said this format is unique and can be very hard to change.

“The Ohio Constitution shouldn’t be a vehicle to ensure that race track owners profit, it should be done in state legislation so it can be changed by legislators,” he said.

Former Toledo mayor Jack Ford, who now teaches political science at BGSU, is also opposed.

“The constitution is the wrong place to junk up with a specific amendment like this. It gives a monopoly to just a few families, and we’re talking about a huge bonanza (racetrack owners) will go from making $700,000 a year in profits to an estimated $30 million a year,” he said.

It’s also front loaded to help Cleveland at the expense of other Ohio cities, because after four years voters in Cleveland can expand to full casino’s. This shows one interest group getting what they want over the needs of another, it has nothing to do with logic.”

Ford also says that 1 percent of the revenues may not be enough money put aside to deal with the expected 108,000 new problem gamblers.

“Why would Ohio need more problem gamblers to add to the tally of the ones we already have, with all the divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure and domestic violence that goes along with this addiction.”

Weiss also concurred saying many people who gamble can’t afford the habit, especially because the average Ohioan earns less than the average American.

Hashim Pondeza, a graduate student of public administration, said he doesn’t think the amendment would be helpful to Bowling Green residents because few have the extra funds for gambling.

“The state should look at other means for getting more money,” he said.

David Jackson, an assistant professor of political science, concedes that there are two very different opinions to this issue.

And Jackson himself can see both of them.

“Issue 3 is good because it would provide money for higher education which helps me, but on the other hand it creates a gambling problem,” he said. “But I like gambling and as a Libertarian, I think I should be able to if I want to, and if it will help the horse racing industry, then it will help rural Ohio in turn.”

Sansanee Ohlson, an education instructor, said students may be misled by the vagueness of the proposed amendment.

“They are spinning this on TV especially for us in education, that this is really good for the students, but we all know when it comes to state funding, it’s never what it’s said it will be,” she said. “Education is supposed to be a top priority, but it never is. But I’m just a teacher, used to doing what I can with what I have.”