enn National will operate Toledo and Columbus casinos while Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner, will develop Cleveland and Cincinnati casinos and hire a company to run them.
Gilbert and Penn National want casinos up and running by 2012. They want to break ground next year. First, the legislature over the next six months must pass laws implementing the constitutional amendment, including casino regulations and operations.
Governor Ted Strickland, with consent of the Senate, also must appoint a seven-member Ohio Casino Control Commission to license and regulate operators. Strickland said Gilbert called him on Wednesday seeking a meeting and the governor told him “I’d be happy to try to find a time we can meet.”
One possible hitch came from state Representative Clyde Evans, who said he would try to get the legislature to put another constitutional amendment on a future ballot to modify the plan approved by voters. Among other things, his proposal would bump up the casino tax rate from 33 % to 60 %.
Both Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Armond Budish said another amendment is possible. But Keary McCarthy, Budish’s spokesman, said the speaker “does have some reservations about changing a measure that voters approved less than 24 hours ago.”
The issue passed 53 % to 47 %, with 31 counties voting in favor and 57 against. In Montgomery County the measure failed by a razor-thin margin: 72,007 to 71,736, or just 271 votes.