OH Governor-elect to Study Racetrack VLT Plan

Ohio's governor-elect will review plans to install VLTs at Ohio racetracks.

Republican Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich wants to study a plan to put video lottery terminals at the state’s racetracks, a move that has the Ohio Lottery Commission in a holding pattern on the proposal.

Kasich isn’t against the plan, but wants to take a “comprehensive look” at gambling in the state, spokesman Rob Nichols told the Akron Beacon Journal. Voters already have approved full-scale casino gambling for the state’s four largest cities.

“Like a lot of Ohioans, John has mixed emotions about gambling,” Nichols said. “He doesn’t really gamble but he’s not opposed to it. He thinks gambling comes with costs to society that must be addressed and minimized, but the revenue can be valuable.”

The state legislature approved the VLT proposal from Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2009 to raise as much as $933 million to balance the budget. The plan has been sidelined by a legal challenge, and Strickland was working to resolve the issues.

Opponents say the machines are illegal gambling devices outside the state’s constitutional definition of a legal lottery.

Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst said the governor believes VLTs at racetracks “are an important revenue source for future budgets and will help the struggling equine industry in Ohio. Ultimately, this issue will be resolved under the next administration.”

The lottery commission has plans on hold until Kasich makes a decision.

“When the new administration makes it clear to us which direction we should be moving, then we’ll know,” lottery commission spokeswoman Jeannie Roberts told the newspaper. “Other than that, we’re treading water.”

Racetrack owners have said VLTs would help protect 17,000 jobs at their facilities. They said they aren’t concerned about Kasich’s election and are optimistic he will be fair when studying the issue, said Tom Aldrich, chief operating officer and executive vice president at Northfield Park, a Cleveland-area harness track.

“It seems pretty natural to me that they would be cautious about it, and I think the racetracks and Northfield Park have to be patient and give the governor-elect and his team the chance to go through the review process,” he said.