Charities in Cuyahoga County have a way of raising money not available to their counterparts elsewhere: gambling on card games. A well-meaning plan to expand that to the state's other 87 counties contained so many wild cards its implementation could have been a disaster.
A privately run "card room" in Cuyahoga County allows gambling, but only with cards. Charities can, in effect, rent the facility to stage poker games, with proceeds going to them. Paid dealers and managers are employed.
Some state legislators believe if the program is going to be allowed in Cuyahoga County, it ought to be made available elsewhere. So they included language to that effect in a bill intended primarily to regulate casinos and video gambling at racetracks.
Gov. John Kasich and several lawmakers objected to the provision, however, on several grounds. One was it would have protected only the existing card room in Cuyahoga County, operated by Nautica Charity Poker Festivals. Another concern was the measure would permit only one card room in each of the other counties.
Some legislators even worried that allowing charity card rooms would cut into the state's revenue from legalized gambling at casinos and racetracks. That would strike many Ohioans as an odd argument, that government should maximize its "take" by shutting out charities.
Other concerns, including the one-per-county limit, are valid, however. They prompted General Assembly leaders to pull card room provisions from the main gambling bill. A separate measure on card rooms will be written and taken up later.
That was wise. If charity gambling is permitted in one county, it should be allowed throughout Ohio - without worrying about state-sanctioned casinos and video gambling at racetracks. Card rooms should be regulated to ensure they are not used for otherwise illegal purposes, including taking advantage of charities. Once loopholes are closed, legislators should act favorably on the bill.