Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gambling on a Marketing Plan...

Todd Hoffman works for Ohio Learn and Earn which thru FieldWorks is helping to get signature petitions to get enough signatures to get their constitutional amendment for gambling on the November ballot.

Ironically, FieldWorks has worked for the Sierra Club and the DNC according to their own website.

Todd, who has been sending me unsolicited emails as well as linking this blog on his blog, says this isn't about gambling. He says this is about providing scholarships to college students. He's also had several posts on Buckeye State Blog where he hasn't always been upfront that he is being paid to promote this.

I have a problem with that and I don't agree with Todd that this is about providing college scholarships. It is about gambling, that's the whole purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment with a side benefit being promoted as college scholarships. Which if you do some reading on only will help the top 5% for the first 12 years, maybe more added but not a major benefit until after 12 years have passed.

I think we should take a quick look at the groups behind Learn and Earn. First, Penn National Gambling, Inc. On their website they list their many locations, one of which is Raceway Park in Toledo. According to their own news releases:

"We will be the third largest gaming company in terms of revenue and (operating earnings)," said Kevin DeSanctis, president and chief operating officer. With about $2.4 billion in expected revenue, Penn would trail only Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET - News) and MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM - News).

In Todd's latest email which is also on the Learn and Earn blog it states:

Why is Cincinnati casino lobbyist Gerald Austin working on a second amendment? Well a couple months ago, the Learn and Earn Committee approached Cincinnati city officials and business interests about designating a location for downtown slot machine parlor. At the time, city officials were not interested. So the Learn and Earn amendment was written and certified including seven racetracks, two near Cincinnati, and two slot machine parlors in Cleveland.

That's not entirely accurate according to the The Enquirer:

Cincinnati was included in original ballot language submitted by Learn and Earn.

But perceived apathy on behalf of city leaders, and concern by Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the lucrative Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, combined to have the Queen City taken off the list.

It's also been stated by the Cleveland Plain Dealer here:

Learn and Earn appeased Penn National by dropping Cincinnati as a gambling site. Penn National operates the Argosy riverboat casino in Indiana, a short drive from Cincinnati.

It's also about profits for Forest City Enterprises Inc., this article shows their interest in gambling.

Jeff Jacobs, a Cleveland developer whose company operates several casinos in other states and owns property in the Flats entertainment district in Cleveland stands to make a profit. Gambling hasn't always been a money maker for Mr. Jacobs, in 1998 Mr. Jacobs suggested Colonial Downs Holdings Inc. of New Kent, Va., a company that owned the horse track in Virginia, could need to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors. Jacobs has supported trying to bring gambling to Ohio for quite some time.

My problem with this isn't that I am necessarily against all gambling, I have personally gone to Raceway Park and I've had a blast every time I have gone. My problem with Learn and Earn is they are trying to market this as a way to fund college tuition yet no matter how you want to dance around it? It's about gambling.

If Ohioans decide they want a constitutional amendment to allow this type of gambling on the ballot? That's fine with me. If Ohioans by a majority decide they want this type of gambling in Ohio? I probably would never vote for it because I don't see gambling as the economic fix but it would at least be on the actual merits. However what isn't fine with me is how this is being marketed and how it was named. They are hoping that the voters will ala Ohio Lottery believe that this is all for the major benefit of our young people rather than the reality which is just a tad different.

This was written for the Carnival of Ohio Politics sponsored by Paul Miller of Northwest Ohio Net stop by and visit to find out what some of Ohio's best bloggers are writing about.