Friday, October 23, 2009

Background Checks Needed with Advent of Casinos

COLUMBUS—House Republican Leader William G. Batchelder of Medina, today announced his commitment to safeguarding casino licenses and preventing individuals who have committed crimes in the past from obtaining a casino license, if Issue 3 is approved by voters this November.

“If Issue 3 passes, the General Assembly has an obligation to ensure that the Casino Control Commission carefully screens applicants who want to own and run the Ohio casinos and makes sure that licenses are not granted to anyone with serious gambling infractions in their past," Batchelder said. “Many other states ask applicants about past gambling charges, even if they have been later expunged or overturned on appeal. This industry is highly regulated for a reason, and Ohio should not bow to pressure and adopt regulations that are lower than industry standards."

As per Section 3770.051 of the Ohio Revised Code, the director of the State Lottery Commission must request the criminal records of any vendor with whom the commission is considering entering into a contract, to protect the integrity of the state’s online gaming system or instant ticket system. Batchelder seeks to extend a variation of this law to apply to Ohio casinos, should the issue pass a public vote.

“It is prudent that policymakers work together to ensure there are safeguards in place such as background checks, so that anyone with a criminal record cannot apply for a license to operate casino in Ohio,” Batchelder said. “I can remember the Ohio Lottery suffering from scandal in the early 1970s caused by the lack of safeguards. Clearly defined rules and regulations on something as vague as gambling are necessary to prevent the dismal mistakes of the past. I urge my legislative colleagues to come together to proactively work and prevent the potential abuse that could come from Issue 3.”

Assistant Republican Leader Louis Blessing Jr. of Cincinnati, who is an opponent to Issue 3, stated the following: “A review of other state standards suggests that criminals would likely be denied a casino license in other states. The cavalier attitude that individuals with similar pasts, who apply for a license here in Ohio tells me they think previous mistakes are just college pranks. This is another reason why we need to know the identity of all of the investors. If the main financial backer can’t get a license, can their partners? We have no idea because he refuses to list the other investors."

Other states have similar laws that serve to uphold the integrity of the state casino system. According to Blessing’s research, Pennsylvania regulators ask casino applicants to list all ‘offenses or charges,’ even if the charges were later dismissed, or downgraded.

In Indiana, applicants are asked whether they have ever been ‘arrested, detained, charged, indicted, convicted, received pro-trial diversion, pleaded guilty or nolo contendere or forfeited bail concerns any criminal offense, either felony or misdemeanor…’ In Colorado, the first question regulators ask is, “Have you ever been convicted of any gambling-related felony at any time?"