Welcoming Gamblers, Regulating Poor People

Cincinnati officials don’t mind if you want to try your luck at slot machines to make a little extra cash, but they’re less enthusiastic about asking people for money on the city’s streets.

During its evening session May 10, city council voted 7-2 to support efforts to amend a state ballot issue on gambling and let voters decide whether to allow a casino at the Broadway Commons site in Over-the-Rhine.

Local businessman Louis Beck has an option to buy the 20-acre site, which is now mostly a series of parking lots, where he envisions a casino and hotel. Before that happens, though, backers will have to collect the signatures of 323,000 registered Ohio voters and then convince voters statewide this fall that the idea is worthwhile.

Council members Chris Monzel, a Republican, and Cecil Thomas, a Democrat, opposed the effort, saying gambling causes various social problems. Supporters counter that a casino could generate up to $40 million annually for Cincinnati and Hamilton County, money that could be used for purposes such as building a new jail.

Meanwhile, council also voted 7-2 Wednesday to permanently enact a law that requires panhandlers to get a license from the city. The law, first passed in 2003, had a sunset provision and would have expired June 20 without any council action.

Under the law, beggars must register with the city and carry photo identification cards. The Cincinnati Health Department issues free licenses at its Elm Street clinic in Over-the-Rhine. Beggars who violate local panhandling restrictions could have their licenses revoked for up to 18 months and face other penalties.

Council members Laketa Cole and John Cranley, both Democrats, opposed keeping the law. They called it unnecessary.

— Kevin Osborne

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