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High bets placed on casino opportunities

Jeff Tyndall / Lantern photographer

Penn National Gaming will open a casino in Columbus within the year. Because of its proximity to campus it could be a student’s next job or lead to a lifelong economic nightmare.

Penn National will open its first Ohio casino in Toledo this spring and its second on the Westside of Columbus this fall.

The casino is located about 25 minutes from main campus and thus might be an attraction for students 21 and older.

While the casino could be alluring to students, it could be dangerous for some.

“College students have twice the risk as the general population for developing a gambling problem,” said Lou Weigele, gambling counselor for the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Part of this is due to the risky behaviors college students are generally involved in and the glamour attached to the high-rolling lifestyle, Weigele said.

“There are two types of problem gamblers, action and escape,” Weigele said. “Action gamblers are looking for excitement and usually play table games and escape gamblers are looking for the numbing effect and usually play the slots,” he said.

Despite the risks of problem gambling, Blaine McKinney, a fourth-year in psychology, said she thinks the new casino will be beneficial to the city and the OSU community.

“(The casino will) bring more business to the surrounding areas and help stimulate the economy in Columbus,” McKinney said.

Hollywood Casino Columbus will feature up to 3,000 slot machines, 70 table games, a steakhouse, buffet, sports bar and cocktail lounge, according to its website.

Male college students are at a greater risk than females due to their competitive nature, Weigele said.

Weigele said gambling can also be new to students who are recently of age and it is important to pay attention to its individual affects.

While a gambling addiction is a possibility, the state has prepared for it.

Bob Tenenbaum, spokesperson for Penn National, said $12 million a year from tax revenue will go toward research and treatment of problem gambling.

Aside from any potential addiction problems the casino might cause, many are excited about the opportunities it could create.

“The casino is an opportunity to revitalize a hard-hit part of town,” Tenenbaum said. “We hope to have spin-off development in the surrounding area.”

Tenenbaum said the casino could create 3,200 jobs and $640 million in tax revenue.

Jazmine Compton, a third-year in respiratory therapy, said the casino would be a great summer job, and Natalie Chunn, a third-year in human development and family sciences, agreed the casino could provide great job opportunities.

The total cost of the project is around $400 million, which is one of the largest, private investments Columbus has seen in years, Tenenbaum said.

“Construction is ahead of schedule and we would like to be open prior to Thanksgiving,” Tenenbaum said.

Qynshela Sanders contributed to this story.

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