Penn National Gaming Joins Quest for Slots in Ohio

By John Kady
A second group has announced plans to seek a constitutional amendment to place a vote on video slots at racetracks in Ohio on the November ballot.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which had revenues of $2 billion last year, announced Tuesday it wants to put up to 5,000 slot machines at each of the state's seven tracks.

Ohio has three Thoroughbred tracks at Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati and harness tracks at Lebanon, Northfield, Columbus and Toledo.

A group known as the "Ohio Legacy Committee" announced in March it would seek a proposed amendment allowing slots at the state's seven race tracks and two free-standing slot machine casinos in Cleveland and one in Cincinnati.

Under the "Ohio Legacy" proposal, areas with slot machines would be allowed to vote on casino gambling in four years.

Penn National also owns the Argosy riverboat casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., a short distance from Cincinnati and some statehouse observers feel their proposal is an attempt to keep casino gambling out of Cincinnati.

"I don't want to attack that group," said David Hopcraft, spokesman for Ohio Legacy. "We'll let the voters decide in August. To me if you look at a map it is pretty obvious what their motives are. But I'm not going to get into a debate over it."

The Penn National group said it had earmarked 32% of its revenues from the slots for education while Ohio Legacy has pledged 30% for education.

A spokesman for the secretary of state's office said if both groups end up with the minimum 322,000 valid signatures, both would be placed on the ballot. To amend the constitution requires more than 50% approval of the voters; if both initiatives are on the ballot and both receive more than 50% voter approval, the one with the most votes would be declared the winner.

Andrew Flowers, a Columbus attorney and spokesman for Penn National group said the company started the petition drive because it felt the Oho Legacy proposal would fail.

"We think this more moderate approach will be more popular with the voters," Flowers said.

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