Paying college tuition is a gamble

COLUMBUS – Opponents of a ballot proposal to expand gambling in Ohio and use the proceeds for scholarships scored a victory yesterday, when officials opted to highlight casinos – not money for college – in language voters will see on Election Day.

Proponents of the initiative they call Learn ‘ Earn still will have a chance to make their case in the “pros and cons” section of the Nov. 7 ballot. But that’s different than including in the ballot question the backers’ plan to distribute some of the money from slot machines at horse racing tracks and a pair of Cleveland casinos to people who attend in-state colleges.

Attorney Gregg Haught, representing the issue’s backers, said Tuesday’s decision by the state ballot board could favor opponents, but a vigorous campaign will be launched to explain to voters that the proposal would provide private college accounts for every Ohio student.

“We worked as hard as we could to draw up language that sees that money goes directly there. It stays away from politicians and their pet projects,” he said. “The ballot board has, in its wisdom, thought that voters don’t need to know about that.”

Melanie Elsey, legislative director for the issue’s leading opponent, the Ohio Roundtable, said her group would have liked to see the ballot language inform voters that operators of the slots and casinos won’t pay activity taxes.

Haught called the allegation misleading, saying they won’t pay traditional taxes because a specific distribution formula for the money is laid out in the constitutional amendment.

Under the formula, 49 percent of the money goes to race track and casino operators; 30 percent to Learn ‘ Earn scholarships and grants; 8 percent to local governments; 6 percent goes to pay purses at race tracks; 6 percent goes to the Ohio simulcast horse racing purse fund; and 1 percent goes to gambling addiction programs.