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Ohio defeats casino issue, keeps lending limits


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected a proposed $600 million casino, the fourth time plans for expanded gambling in the state have been turned down since 1990.

Voters approved a new payday lending law that cuts the annual percentage rate that lenders can charge to 28 percent and limits the number of loans customers can take to four per year. It is among the strictest laws in the country.

In early unofficial returns, the gambling issue was defeated 62 percent to 38 percent. Support for the payday lending law was at 66 percent.

“Ohio voters stripped payday lenders of their permit to fleece working people,” Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and treasurer of the group working in favor of the issue, said in a statement.

Supporters of Issue 6 bet that voters would think more about Ohio’s economic problems than their previous opposition to casinos and gambling. The state has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs since 1990 and in August recorded its highest unemployment rate in 16 years at 7.4 percent., a group of Cleveland-area developers backing the proposal, said the resort would create up to 5,000 jobs in an area of the state that stands to lose 10,000 jobs at an air park in Wilmington and an auto plant near Dayton.

The campaign said all 88 counties would share casino money, promoted as $211 million a year, and that it would draw Ohioans who now have to travel to surrounding states to visit casinos.

Opponents say little-noticed language means counties would have received less money — maybe even none — if an additional casino came to Ohio.

The vote shows continued strong opposition to gambling in Ohio, said David Zanotti, president of the Ohio Roundtable, a group of business and community leaders that has fought the gambling issues.

“People are really tired of this,” he said. “The credibility of the gambling industry in this state is just about shot.”

A “yes” vote on Issue 5 upheld the law. Voting “no” rejected the limits and cap on interest rates, allowing lenders to charge rates and fees that amount to a 391 percentage annual percentage rate.

Ohioans for Financial Freedom say the new law would force payday lending businesses across the state to shut down and as many as 6,000 people to be laid off. The industry argued that while loan rates multiply out to 391 percent over a year’s time the percentage on a single loan is generally $15 for every $100 and 90 percent of borrowers repay their loans within two weeks.

Backers of the law say such loans are defective products that trap borrowers into a cycle of debt. Borrowers typically end up with 12 or more loans each year, according to the committee backing the proposal.

Voters also easily passed the other three state issues, with each getting at least 69 percent of the vote.

Issue 2 allows the state to issue bonds to pay for conservation of natural open spaces and the environmental revitalization of other lands.

The other two initiatives were proposed constitutional amendments.

Issue 3 strengthens landowners’ rights to make “reasonable use” of water that runs on or through a property. It was proposed alongside the recently approved Great Lakes Water Compact, which strengthens legal protections for the use of water from the five Great Lakes and their connecting channels.

Issue 1 requires an earlier filing deadline for statewide ballot issues. Citizen-initiated petitions for the issues would need to be submitted at least 125 days before an election as opposed to 60 days for state referendums or 90 days for constitutional amendments.


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