Some Fear Ohio Legalized Gambling - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Even without the glitz of real casinos, legal gambling is almost everywhere. Gamblers can bet on horse races, church bingo, charity poker and a mind-numbing array of scratch-off lottery tickets. They can join office pools, bet against bowling buddies and put money on the line in fantasy sports leagues.

"Casino companies see the popularity of legal gambling as proof that casinos would thrive here.

"But as the debate over legalizing casinos grows, some worry that Vegas-style gambling would poach from the gambling that's already here. If that happens, millions of dollars that now go to schools, churches, sports teams and local fire departments could be lost to the big gambling halls.

"Huge sums are at stake: Ohio and Kentucky sell nearly $3 billion in lottery tickets every year, and horse tracks in those states annually handle bets totaling more than $2 billion. St. Dominic's netted $17,000 this Saturday night.

"…Lottery sales have been stagnant nationally, some racetracks have struggled and bingo revenue has dropped as casinos have opened across the country. In Ohio, charitable bingo revenues fell from $43 million in 1995 to $36 million in 2001 - a period that saw casinos open in Indiana and Michigan.

"Few expect those trends to change if a casino opens in downtown Cincinnati or along the riverfront in Northern Kentucky.

"…Churches and charities may have the most to lose because they rely so heavily on festivals, bingo and Vegas Nights to pay their bills.

"…Like most churches, St. Dominic's spends its gambling profits on teacher salaries, building repairs and maintenance. This year, the money goes toward a new roof for the gym. The church only does Las Vegas night once a year, but it raises another $100,000 at its annual spring festival, which also features gambling.

"…Racetrack owners are just as worried about the impact of casinos. But after years of leading the fight against them, they're now taking a different approach: If you can't beat them, join them…"

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