Ohio Appeals Court Hears VLT Arguments

A public policy group is challenging the law authorizing racetrack VLTs in the state.

By John Kady

The Ohio Roundtable, a conservative anti-gambling organization, asked the Franklin County Court of Appeals Jan. 17 to reject a decision by the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, which last year dismissed a lawsuit challenging a law allowing racetrack video lottery terminals.

The Common Pleas Court, in rejecting the suit, said the Ohio Roundtable did not have the proper standing to challenge the 2011 law authorizing VLTs. Proper standing means the public policy group must show an individual or organization was harmed by the law.

Rob Walgate, an officer of the Ohio Roundtable, said the group should have been given standing because he is a reformed gambling addict who could relapse if VLTs are installed at racetracks.

The Franklin County Common Pleas Court heard testimony from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who said Walgate's statement is not applicable because there are other forms of gambling in Ohio, including full-scale casinos, that could contribute to Walgate's relapse, if it should happen.

The Ohio Roundtable also said racetrack VLTs are unconstitutional because, according to the state constitution, all revenue from the Ohio Lottery is supposed to go to schools or local government. DeWine contended that's not a reason for standing because, if there was a shortfall of such funds, it could be made up with money from the state general fund.

The public policy group also claims VLTs, like Ohio's full-scale casinos, should have been approved via statewide referendum.

The appeals court took the Jan. 17 arguments under consideration and will issue a verdict at a later date.

Currently, only one Ohio racetrack, Scioto Downs in Columbus, has VLTs. The other six tracks, however, are obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals for the gaming machines.