John K. Hartman
Author of The USA Today Way books

Dear Columbus--Better Not Pout

By John K. Hartman

Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:59 PM EST

Dear Columbus (with apologies to J. Fred Coots and Henry Gillespie’s 1934 ode to Santa Claus):

“You better not pout, you better not cry, a casino is coming to town.”

The most visible civic leaders of Columbus continue their crusade against the casino in the Arena District downtown six weeks after the election.

They rebel against the 9 million residents of Ohio outside the Columbus metropolitan area for imposing the casino and its location on the Capital City.

They use as rationale that Columbus residents opposed the casino 55 to 45 percent and that the rest of the metro area was against it by a few percentage points more.

They ignore, as The Other Paper’s Steph Greegor reported last week, that many Columbus area precincts and neighborhoods voted “for” the casinos.

They act as if the Columbus vicinity is a “city-state,” as Cincinnati legislator Bill Seitz puts it, that does not have to listen to the 53 percent majority of its fellow Ohioans.

The Columbus insiders have persuaded statewide officeholders and potential candidates to take up their crusade. City leaders are considering various means to block the casino’s construction. Local lawmakers are readying legislation to cause another statewide vote to re-amend the Ohio Constitution and remove the Columbus casino, leaving ones in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, where regional voters said “yes.”

The Columbus leaders might want to consider sentiments in the rest of the state before putting the withdrawal amendment on the statewide ballot.

Having moved to the Columbus area (Powell in southern Delaware County) a year ago, I offer my perspective having lived 34 years in the Toledo metropolitan area (Bowling Green) and 29 years in the Cleveland metropolitan area (Ashland).

Residents of the “Other Ohio,” as John Robinson Block of the Toledo Blade once dubbed the 9 million Ohioans outside central Ohio, have a conflicted viewpoint toward Columbus.

On one hand, the Other Ohioans like Columbus for its signature state university, entertainment and cultural attractions, and quality of life. Its diverse economy that holds up well in difficulty economic times is respected, too.

On the other hand, Other Ohioans know that they are helping to finance Columbus’s good fortune through a generous subsidy to Ohio State University and through the tax dollars that go to finance the state government headquartered here.

I used to joke that when I drove by myself from Bowling Green to Columbus, I was never alone because the “tax dollars” were traveling down U.S. 23 with me.

The Other Ohio knows that the Columbus area is faring better during this Great Recession than the rest of the state. Casinos were sold to the rest of the state as creators of jobs and economic activity. Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo – in far worse economic shape than Columbus – bought the argument.

I predict that the Other Ohio would see Columbus seeking a constitutional amendment to opt out of a casino as a spoiled child wanting even better treatment than the deprived children in the rest of the state. I foresee a thundering “no” from the rest of the state.

This might set in motion other actions by the Other Ohio aimed at curbing Columbus’s economic benefits, hardly a risk civic leaders can afford to take.

I believe that the rest of the state already sees through the argument that a casino will harm the “family friendly” atmosphere of the Arena District.

Professional hockey is full of fights and brutality, hardly suitable for families. The raunchier rock ‘n’ roll acts at Nationwide Arena fail the family test as well. Did I mention lots of alcohol-serving bars and R-rated movies in the vicinity?

A big, diverse city like Columbus can handle a casino/entertainment venue in the Arena District.
Better not pout.


There is an even bigger reason for Columbus to green light the casino. In my next column.

(John K. Hartman is a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University and the Al-Jazirah newspaper chair of international journalism at King Saud University.)


John K. Hartman is a professor of journalism at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  He is the author of two books, "The USA Today Way 2: The Future" (2000) and "The USA Today Way" (1992).  He has examined much of the research done on young adult newspaper readership and is a widely quoted source on the topic.  Jacqueline Hartman provided editing assistance to the author.

In August 2008 Dr. Hartman covered and blogged the Democratic National Convention for the Mount Pleasant, Mich., Morning Sun. In 2008 Dr. Hartman was named the Al-Jazirah Newspaper Chair for International Journalism at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and visited the kingdom to lecture, teach and give seminars. He is scheduled to return in 2009. To learn more about King Saud University, visit

Copyright © 2009, John K. Hartman.  All Rights Reserved.