OH Tracks to Get VLTs, But What About Purses?

Ohio tracks will get VLTs, but the amount for purses isn't known.

Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland said July 10 he will sign an executive order authorizing video lottery terminals at Ohio’s seven racetracks, but questions remain as to how much revenue—if any—purses and breed development will receive.

The announcement culminated weeks of bickering between Ohio Republicans and Democrats over a two-year budget that was to take effect July 1. The state has been operating with temporary budgets.

Republicans wouldn’t agree to authorize VLTs legislatively, though they will have to pass a bill that includes implementation requirements. Strickland had a choice to authorize VLTs via executive order or drop the plan, which he proposed.

“Under the bipartisan agreement, I will issue a directive instructing Ohio’s Lottery director to expeditiously take all necessary actions to implement video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks,” Strickland said in a July 10 statement. “The General Assembly will acknowledge the Lottery’s authority to implement video lottery terminals and provide for a statutory definition of video lottery terminals and other implementation requirements in (the budget bill).

“With this understanding, I am confident that the legislature can now move quickly to enact a balanced budget that rightly prioritizes education as the foundation of Ohio’s economic revival, reduces state government spending while minimizing the impact on critical health and safety services, and does not raise taxes on Ohioans or Ohio businesses struggling through this recession.”

Strickland hasn’t yet signed the order; the state legislature is expected to take more action on the budget July 13. All parties, however, have agreed on the plan.

Horsemen haven’t seen the executive order, but they said previous drafts included no protection for horsemen or percentages for purses and breed development programs. They said they wouldn’t comment until they see the executive order and companion legislation, but expressed concern purses and other protections won’t be part of the plan.

Earlier reports indicated the racetracks, which will serve as agents for the Ohio Lottery and have been involved in negotiations with state legislators, proposed 4% of VLT revenue for horsemen, the lowest figure in the country. The Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association told lawmakers 10% is the magic number.

Strickland in June said racetracks VLTs would be about plugging a hole in the state budget, which is short about $3.2 billion, not about saving Ohio's troubled horse racing industry. Racing officials have said they would work to fund purses "adequately," but they offered no specifics.