As if the unprecedented rejection of Governor Strickland’s legally mandated appointments to the Ohio Casino Control Commission weren’t troubling enough, given the blatant power grab that it represents, it also means Republicans have just shot an even larger hole in the next State Budget.
In November, Strickland’s appointees to the Commission were already hard at work drafting preliminary casino regulations. Ohio law required these rules to be completed by March 2011. Rules set forth how casino licensing and oversight will occur, and without them, no casino operators can obtain licenses, something their investors will want before they sink hundreds of million into construction. Commissioners were also planning to start hiring the 150 or so employees needed to license and oversee casino operations. All of this has now been delayed at least three months, likely more, depending on how long it takes Governor-elect Kasich to name replacement nominees and their eagerness to hit the ground running.
Sure, the General Assembly can and will push back the March deadline, but all that will do is remove any incentive for the incoming Commissioners to act quickly. The State Tax Department estimates that each year, casinos will generate $643 million in tax revenue for local governments and school districts. Even in the most optimistic scenario, a three month delay in opening casinos could mean over $160 million in scarce resources that the state will have to send to local governments and schools in the next state budget to replace the lost casino revenue.