Today I received an e-mail from Justin Higgins, a former blog author of Right on the Right, which can be found in my blogroll sidebar under the heading of State of Ohio Blogger Alliance. Mr.Higgins is also a contributor to Shots on the House. Mr. Higgins is involved in internet outreach for the casino proponents, who call themselves “Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan” (a misnomer if I ever heard one, over-the-top propagandistic, but that’s a topic for a blog entry for some other day).
The State of Ohio Blogger Alliance is comprised of blogs that consider themselves politically right-of-center. Buckeye RINO, this very blog, is also part of the State of Ohio Blogger Alliance. As you can tell already, from the intro to this blog entry, there are differing opinions within the Alliance, and gambling is one of the issues that the SOB Alliance is divided on. Most of those within the Alliance who favor casinos describe themselves as somewhat Libertarian in their social views. The others on the right who favor casinos are more moderate. I think there are valid reasons why, even from a Libertarian viewpoint, Ohio’s casino issues don’t pass muster (here’s an example from last year’s Issue 6). As one can read in my right-hand sidebar, I’m neither Libertarian nor moderate. I consider myself to be a conservative Republican, even though a few people label me as a RINO (don’t be fooled by this graph). At any rate, I’ve been catching flak from some on my own side of the aisle for my opposition to gambling. They don’t usually leave comments here on the blog, for all to see. They usually just let me know of their disapproval through e-mail. Mr. Higgins, though, intended this email to be part of the public discourse, so here it is:
From: Justin Higgins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 10:35:23 AM
Subject: Touching Base from the Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan
I contacted you back in the spring and since then you’ve spoken to a couple folks from the Jobs & Growth Plan, including our spokesman. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be talking to bloggers and providing information from now until November and I’m available as a resource for information. We’re glad you’re writing about the issue and I wanted to contact you to provide some facts and thoughts that might answer some questions and stand contrary to a few of your arguments.
1) First, in response to the notion that this is another deal that only benefits out-of-state gambling operators: Dan Gilbert employs Ohioans, contributes immensely to the Cleveland area, and has contributed immensely to Ohio’s economy. He employs over 2,000 Ohioans through a Quicken Loans web center in downtown Cleveland, a Fathead distribution center in Columbus, and his other Ohio ventures. He is a significant investor in the state.
2) Also, in a similar manner, you wrote about the Monte Carlo scenario being different because outside money was flowing into Monaco. I think the missing piece of the puzzle that makes our proposal beneficial is that Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and even Canada are Ohio’s “Monte Carlo’s”. They are the ones siphoning wealth and prospering while Ohio refuses to fight for the market share that is already being spent out of state and will be spent whether Ohio has casinos or not. It is estimated through the Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan that $1 billion in Ohio gambling dollars that are currently leaving the state will be repatriated.
3) Also on the issue of “money leaving Ohio”, it’s not just about the management and companies owning the casino, but it is about the jobs and peripheral benefit the casinos will have on area businesses such as hotels and restaurants. The amendment requires the facilities to be $250 million investments at the minimum, so they will be first-class establishments.
4) In response to your final argument about a free market for gambling in Ohio, it is a frustrating case of reality setting in. As Bob said, it is “impractical” to have 50 casinos operating in Ohio right now, not only from the business perspective but from the political perspective.
I am sure you will cover this issue more going forward, and I am available to answer your questions or provide you information by phone or e-mail.
The Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan
I do have to concede one point to Mr. Higgins. I thought I’d included all prior correspondence with Ohio Jobs and Growth in this post. I took a look through my email inbox and found I’d overlooked a prior message from Mr. Higgins. Here it is:
From: Justin Higgins <Jhiggins@ohiojobsandgrowth.org>
To: Daniel Williamson <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 6:56:08 AM
Subject: Introduction to Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan
First off, I want to introduce myself. My name is Justin Higgins and like you, I’m a blogger in Ohio. Recently however I’ve taken on a new role and I’m doing some internet outreach for the Ohio Jobs & Growth plan. I am not a spokesman, I’m just here to get you guys (good bloggers) in touch with folks and give you info on our proposal. Feel free to ask me any questions but treat anything I send as off-the-record unless noted otherwise (or unless a link to a story or official statement). Basically, I wanted to share some info about the plan. This plan will bring in 4 casinos and create roughly 20,000 jobs. It will generate the state over $650 million in tax revenues every year. I recall you writing that Ohioans oppose gambling, and while that’s true in the past, new polling data shows a shift. I’d direct you to the Vindicator for this- http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/may/09/ohio-poll-60-favor-casino-gambling/?newswatch
/A total of 60 percent of respondents said they favored making casino-style gambling legal in Ohio. /
/That result is comparable to past Ohio Polls but does not mean voters will back specific casino issues on the ballot, said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the institute./
/According to a release, “While the Ohio Poll has found in the past that a majority of Ohio adults approve of casino gambling in major cities near their home, the poll has also found election day voters unwilling to approve ballot issues that would lead to the legalization of gambling in the state. This has been reflected in election day outcomes over the past decade.”/
We believe a considerable amount of opposition to past proposals has more to do with the strength of those proposals. We believe this plan is the right plan at the right time for Ohio. Feel free to contact me with any questions or requests.
— Justin Higgins
Online Communications Specialist
Ohio Jobs & Growth Plan
OK. I’m finished with concessions. Now, onto my counterpoints to Mr. Higgins rebuttal.
To Mr. Higgins point number one: There are many, many people who invest in Ohio, who employ people in Ohio, and who, themselves are Ohioans. Mr. Gilbert is not an Ohioan, but he would get special rights under this proposed constitutional amendment that resident Ohio investors/employers would not be granted.
To Mr. Higgins point number two: As for the casinos that exist in neighboring states, they cannibalize the assets of the populations of their own states more than they do Ohio’s. This differs from Monte Carlo, because that casino was off-limits to Monaco’s citizenry. Monaco was only gaining money from the casino. They weren’t simultaneously losing money to the casino. So there was an economic net gain from Monte Carlo. The surrounding states don’t receive a net gain, and this post during last year’s issue 6 campaign explains some of the reasons why, from a microeconomics point of view (and I’ll be building on that theme in the near future). I can’t help that those other states have casinos, as I’ve not been registered to vote in those states. I CAN, however, strive to make a difference in Ohio, so that we don’t make the same mistakes that surrounding states have made (and casinos are mistakes, in my book).
To Mr. Higgins point number three: Ohio gets the table scraps, while the out-of-state casino owners/operators pump their profits out of Ohio. Ohioans might as well continue gambling at the out-of-state casinos. Opening the casinos here only increases the cannibalization of Ohio’s population while sending the profits out to some of the exact same entities that own the out-of-state casinos. If Ohio were to approve casinos, I’d rather that the casino owners making the profits were Ohioans, and if Dan Gilbert wants to get in on the action, he can work as a peon blackjack dealer and earn a fraction of those table scraps. How’s that for turning your idea on it’s head?
To Mr. Higgins point number 4: Thanks for pointing out that libertarians, who champion free enterprise, should not support the casino industry, where much marketplace intervention is required to keep the industry artificially sustained. Also, thanks for pointing out that there are business realities and political realities, for casinos aren’t the utopias they are made out to be. Among the political realities are the fact that we rely on government officials to be the gatekeepers of casino gambling, and that, since Ohio has had a recent history of corruption in government, politicians can’t be trusted as gatekeepers. The pro-gambling lobby provides great temptations for ethically-challenged government officials. Libertarians clamour for transparency and accountability. Conversely, the gambling industry corrodes both transparency and accountability. I’ll have much more to say about all of these points in the near future.