Slots in Ohio may fund scholarships

An amendment recently placed on the Ohio ballot gives November voters a chance to gamble with their future.

By placing slot machines at seven Ohio horse racing tracks and two Cleveland casinos, the Ohio Learn and Earn amendment aims to provide funding for all Ohio students, grades k-12, to attend a college or university.

Ian James, spokesman for the Learn and Earn committee, said the amendment, if passed on November 7, will generate nearly $1 billion per year for college tuition. Because the money will be handled and distributed by the Ohio Board of Regents, politicians will be unable to touch the fund, James said.

The board would be responsible for the distribution of the scholarship money, although there is still work to be done on the process of the distribution if the amendment passes, said Jamie Abel, spokesman for the Board of Regents.

“There’s still an awful lot of work to be done finishing up ideas on what benchmarks students would have to meet,” Abel said. “But this level of detail is still months away and only if it passes.”

Although one percent of the entire fund would go toward fighting gambling addiction problems, some still feel that this amendment would be simply “dressing the devil in a new suit,” said junior Jeri Taube.

“The percentage of money that will go to education is minimal compared to the damage done to society as a whole,” Taube said. “It is just not a virtuous thing.”

For those who think along those lines, James responded that gambling is as simple as a drive to Indiana, West Virginia, or like many college students, Windsor.

“The real problem is that working families are spending 42 percent of their household income to put their kids through college,” James said. “We need to keep money in Ohio for families, keep kids going to college, and keep jobs in the state.”

The creation of these gambling sites will directly provide 17,000 jobs and that spin-off employment opportunities will be created as well. Statewide, this could mean as many as 56,000 new jobs, James said.

If the amendment does have enough voter support on November 7, students will begin to receive financial support beginning in 2009.