During the coming days, while Ohio state government operates on an interim budget, legislators and Gov. Ted Strickland will debate the issue of slot machines at racetracks. Instead of focusing on politics and attempting to disguise the issues with semantics, lawmakers and the governor should address the key questions involved:
First, does the governor have the authority to permit slot machines at racetracks? If so, should he do that?
Second, what about the money? Strickland believes during the next two years, the state will receive $933 million from slot machines at racetracks. If his plan is stymied, how will legislators deal with the fiscal fallout? Will they find spending cuts to account for the $933 million or will they increase taxes?
We believe Strickland is wrong to proceed with his slot machine plan. Expansion of legalized gambling is an issue that should be left to Ohio voters.
A substantial number of legislators agree. Some of them say they intend to block the governor.
But last week, Strickland attempted to portray his opponents as hypocrites. He noted about two years ago, 24 state senators - including many who now oppose his plan - endorsed a proposal to place video racing terminals at racetracks.
"I do not see any legitimate distinction" between that plan and his, the governor said.
There are differences. The video racing terminals proposed by some state senators are keyed to betting on horse races run in the past. A complicated method is used to prevent players from knowing how videotaped races on which they bet turned out. Slot machines such as those proposed by Strickland have a wider appeal. They are electronic versions of the old "one-armed bandits."
Indeed, the governor has a point - but it needs to be noted that when the video racing terminal plan came up, legislators rejected it. That certainly doesn't support Strickland's position that lawmakers should get out of his way on gambling.
State senators were right to reject video racing terminals two years ago. They should do the same thing regarding slot machines.