OH Casinos Move Forward; Racetrack VLTs Next?

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has reached an agreement that will resume construction on casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland—and according to published reports permit video lottery terminals at the state’s seven racetracks.

Uncertainty over the Republican governor’s plans for gaming, including changes in the tax scheme, led to work stoppages at the two sites being developed by Rock Ohio Caesars. On June 11, Kasich’s office said an “agreement in principle” was reached and that details would be released later in the week of June 13.

“I’m glad that we’ve reached agreement with ROC on outstanding gaming issues, including additional payments to benefit Ohioans,” Kasich said in a statement. “ROC negotiated seriously, in good faith, and with a spirit of partnership, and has told us it intends to soon restart construction on its casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati.”

Ohio voters legalized four casinos, one each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo, a few years ago. The tax rate listed in the successful constitutional amendment is 33%, and it will remain at the rate, according to state officials.

Racetrack VLTs were authorized under a directive by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland but never came to pass even after a lawsuit against the plan was dropped. Kasich has said racetrack video gambling could be part of his overall gambling plan for Ohio.

According to published reports, lawmakers claim the agreement with Rock Ohio Caesars, and another deal pending with Penn National Gaming Inc., involve racetrack VLTs.

Caesars, now parent company of Harrah’s Entertainment, owns Thistledown near Cleveland. PNGI, which is building casinos in Columbus and Toledo, owns Beulah Park south of Columbus and Raceway Park in Toledo.

Pinnacle Entertainment, which operates Belterra Casino in neighboring Indiana, purchased River Downs near Cincinnati this year.

Under the Strickland plan, the state would have received 50% of gross revenue from VLTs. The racing industry--primarily racetracks--would have gotten the rest; tracks and horsemen would have had to negotiate a rate for purses and breed development.

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