Racing Language Protected in OH Gaming Bill

The House and Senate passed the legislation May 24 and sent it to the governor.

Language pertaining to the horse racing industry remained intact May 24 when the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate passed a casino cleanup bill that was sent to Republican Gov. John Kasich for his signature.

The measure had stalled for more than a week as the House reviewed changes made by the Senate. But things such as pari-mutuel funding for breed development programs, minimums and maximums for racing dates, and a percentage range for revenue horsemen would receive from video lottery terminals weren’t changed.

“They worked off the Senate version of the bill,” Dave Basler, executive director of the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said May 25. “The amendments didn’t relate (to the horse racing language).”

The House approved the gambling bill on a 71-23 vote. The Senate vote for passage was 26-3.

The 2011 racetrack gaming law in Ohio set no percentage tracks must pay horsemen from VLT proceeds, but Kasich at the time said the two parties must agree on a figure. There still is no agreement on the splits.

The bill that was sent to Kasich states the Ohio State Racing Commission “may direct through rule” the percentage that will be paid “for the benefit of breeding and racing in the state.” The minimum is 9% and the maximum 11%.

The horsemen’s share and the state tax of 33.5% can’t exceed 45% combined, meaning the racetrack casino operators—called video lottery sales agents—would get 55% of gross VLT revenue.

The range for horsemen in the bill is primarily a safety net. Basler said he believes the VLT percentage will be a figure negotiated by the tracks and horsemen’s groups, and that negotiations are continuing.

The first racetrack VLT casino is scheduled to open June 1 at Scioto Downs, a harness track in Columbus, even though a legal challenge to the 2011 law hasn’t been resolved.