by John Kady
Supporters of video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks have submitted an additional 43,879 petitions they say will meet the required number needed to put a VLT referendum on the November ballot.
"The only new thing we did this time was to pre-validate those new signatures," said Robin Hepler, a spokesperson for the Ohio Learn and Earn Committee, which is conducting the petition drive. "We checked them against the county records so we are sure we will be on the ballot."
The additional signed petitions were needed after the initial drive to put a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot fell 8,176 signatures short of the number required by law. The office of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell ruled in August the initial 624,525 petitions came up short of the 322,899 needed to put the amendment up for a vote.
The Ohio Learn and Earn Committee said at the time the shortfall was announced it had already been collecting the additional signatures needed. "We gave them the 10-day extension and they submitted them (late in the afternoon of Sept. 5)," said James Lee of the secretary of state's office.
The new petitions will now be sent back to the counties for verification, Lee said.
Under the amendment, VLTs would be allowed at Beulah Park and Scioto Downs in the Columbus area, Thistledown and Northfield Park in the Cleveland area, River Downs near Cincinnati, Lebanon Raceway near Dayton, and Raceway Park in Toledo. The measure would also allow for two stand-alone casinos in Cleveland.
The committee estimates $800 million a year would be used to finance scholarships for Ohio students at Ohio colleges and universities. Another $200 million a year would be used for economic developments in all of Ohio's 88 counties, with another $170 million to be distributed to the horse racing industry.