Wait-and-See for Ohio Racetrack Relocations

A legal challenge to racetrack VLTs possible after the the legislation becomes law.

by John Kady

If the Ohio Supreme Court were to rule that video lottery terminals can’t be installed at racetracks in the state, attempts to move tracks to new locations would be dropped.

The Ohio Roundtable, a conservative anti-gambling organization, has said it intends to challenge a 2011 law that gives the Ohio Lottery Commission authority to install VLTs at the seven racetracks in the state. The group, which believes a constitutional amendment is required for VLTs, said Oct. 5 it is still studying the situation and has not decided when it will file an objection to the law, which takes effect Oct. 17.

Penn National Gaming Inc. has said it wants to move Beulah Park near Columbus and Raceway Park in Toledo to other locations underserved by gambling facilities. The Ohio State Racing Commission would make the decision on relocations.

PNGI is building full-scale casinos in those two racing markets. The company has said it wants to avoid competing with itself and would generate more revenue for the state by opening new markets.

Ohio-based PNGI spokesman Bob Tennenbaum said if the law authorizing racetrack VLTs were knocked down by the high court, the company would not purse racetrack relocations.

If racetrack VLTs are installed and the tracks are approved to move, the OSRC could license other racing interests to take over abandoned facilities, though VLTs could not be installed for 10 years.

The OSRC can entertain applications for racetrack relocations any time after Oct. 17.