Downtown Roulette

Will Casinos Be a Win for Ohio Cities?

Story by Anna Clark

Photography by Frank Lanza

Published on Feb 4, 2013

A decade ago, only 11 states allowed allows casinos within their borders. Today, that number has risen to 24, with an additional dozen hosting casinos on Native American land. With the fiscal cliff and other threats to financial stability looming over local governments, it’s likely that number will grow even higher. And when it does, cities will bear disproportionate impact as most commercial casinos locate in metropolitan centers. Last year, after Ohio became the latest state to legalize casino gambling, its first gaming complex opened in downtown Cleveland. Casinos in Toledo and Columbus appeared soon thereafter, and another is slated for Cincinnati. But will these glitzy institutions deliver the new tax revenues that political and business leaders expect? And more generally, do casinos even belong in urban downtowns, especially those in search of a viable economic development strategy? Writer Anna Clark examines the casino industry, from these Ohio upstarts to longtime gambling haven Atlantic City, to find out.