CLINTON COUNTY, OH-A grassroots group, backed by Minneapolis-based Lakes Entertainment Inc., wants to wager that, this time, state voters will vote through a casino proposal. The idea of bringing the first casino to Ohio has been denied by voters three times, in 1992, ’96 and ’06, but the partners who head up MyOhioNow LLC believe that they can get approval for a $600 million property at the site of an Amish souvenir barn here at the Ohio Route 73 exit off of Interstate 71.

The group has plans for the large first phase of a casino-based, two-million-sf entertainment complex, that will include a roughly 200,000-sf casino, a 1,500-room hotel, a 50,000-sf conference center, a 3,000-car parking garage, a 2,500-seat theater, eight restaurants, a golf course and 10,000-sf of retail. A planned second phase would include an expansion of the hotel, an automotive speedway, and more retail and casino space, according to the group.

Rick Lertzman–who with partner Brad Pressman makes up the backbone of MyOhioNow–says that his group will get more than enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The group says the proposal is different than the last few failed casino issues, because former ballot questions were geared to add more than one casino. More than 400,000 signatures are required by Aug. 6 to put the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, but Lertzman says he isn’t worried. “We should have double the amount that we need,” he says. “We plan a very strong campaign this fall.” He says many people are out collecting the petitions, and are apparently being paid for their efforts, as evidenced by the group’s Web site promising to pay petition collectors.

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