2 developers mounting drive for 5th casino in Ohio

THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Voters will be asked to approve a fifth casino in an increasingly crowded Ohio gambling environment, a partner in a new referendum drive said Thursday.

Rick Lertzman said he and fellow developer Brad Pressman hope to get a question on the Ohio ballot Nov. 6 to allow a casino in the Youngstown area in northeast Ohio. It would compete with a proposed race track offering video slots.

Ohio's first casino will open in May in Cleveland, with another to open weeks later in Toledo. Casinos also were approved for Cincinnati and Columbus in a statewide vote in 2009.

Lertzman and Pressman have backed three failed gambling drives in Ohio, most recently in 2008 in Clinton County in southwest Ohio.

The goal is to collect enough signatures, about 350,000, to quality for the ballot this year, Lertzman said. The measure would expand the voter-approved 2009 question allowing four casinos and specifying the locations.

If the petition deadline cannot be met, the casino campaign will aim for the spring 2013 primary.

Lertzman said excitement about casino jobs would help get voter approval for a fifth casino.

As for another statewide vote in a gambling environment expanding to include casinos and track video slot machines, Lertzman said voters will be supportive of hard-luck Youngstown.

"We think the voters of Ohio, as long as you could say, 'Look, we've got huge unemployment problems in Youngstown' ... I think the voters are going to be very sympathetic," he said.