The Associated Press May 4, 2010, 2:12PM ET

Voters deciding on Ohio jobs program, casino site

Ohio voters Tuesday are deciding two statewide ballot issues: One would renew a state program aimed at creating technology jobs and the other would change the site of a casino planned in Columbus.

Issue 1 would extend the Third Frontier program to 2016 by authorizing the issue of $700 million in additional bonds over four years. The program, which has bipartisan support at a time when the state's unemployment rate is 11 percent, provides startup money for companies in industries such as alternative energy and biomedical research.

Issue 2 would change the location of the Columbus casino approved by voters last year from a downtown neighborhood to a former auto parts factory on the city's west side.

Neither ballot issue faces organized opposition but both have critics.

Third Frontier began in 2002 as a 10-year, $1.6 billion initiative. Even though it doesn't expire until 2012, it must be renewed now to assure private investors that Ohio remains committed, supporters say.

The program has spent about $1 billion, generating $6.6 billion in economic activity in Ohio and creating 41,300 jobs, according to an independent study conducted by SRI International, a nonprofit research institute based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Critics, such as former state Rep. Tom Brinkman, a Republican from Cincinnati, argue that it encourages corporate welfare.

The casino measure directly affects Columbus but requires a statewide vote.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which last November got voter approval to develop casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, wants to build the Columbus casino on property occupied by a former Delphi auto parts factory.

The casino had been planned for the city's Arena District, but Mayor Michael Coleman objected, saying it would clash with the neighborhood's family-oriented theme.

At the urging of Coleman and various state lawmakers, Penn National Gaming agreed to change locations.

The Ohio Roundtable, which has traditionally opposed expanded gambling in Ohio, says the deal with lawmakers shows how much clout the gambling industry has in the state.


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