Ohio Lawmaker Plans Gaming Legislation

Rep. Louis Blessing said too much money is leaving Ohio for neighboring states.

by John Kady

An Ohio lawmaker whose district includes River Downs said Nov. 26 he plans to introduce legislation in 2009 for casino-style gaming that would support the horse racing and breeding in the state.

Republican Rep. Louis Blessing of the Cincinnati area said he would introduce legislation in to allow either video gaming machines at Ohio’s seven racetracks or the establishment of casinos in the state.

“No matter which way we go, racetracks will get a portion of the money,” Blessing said. “We want to make sure the tracks get the money to build up their purses and help the racing industry in Ohio.”

Blessing said he isn’t sure what route he would take, but a measure would be placed on the ballot probably in November 2009.

Issue 6 which would have allowed construction of a resort casino complex in southwest Ohio between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, was defeated at the polls Nov. 4. The reason that measure failed, Blessing said, is because “it would have allowed the construction of only that one casino.”

Including this year, three ballot measures for gaming in Ohio have failed. On Nov. 21, one Ohio racetrack owner told the Ohio State Racing Commission it should recommend Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland facilitate implementation of Instant Racing machines at tracks.

“Ohio is losing too much money to out-of -state gambling interests,” said Blessing, who noted the Argosy Casino about 20 miles from Cincinnati in Indiana, and Wheeling Island, a casino and Greyhound track in West Virginia on the Ohio border.

Ohio Lottery-operated Keno games authorized by Strickland earlier this year haven’t brought in the money he thought it would. 

Two Ohio tracks—Beulah Park and River Downs—were granted approval by the OSRC to cut about 160 days of live Thoroughbred racing next year.