Ohio Senate OKs Instant Racing at Tracks

by John Kady

The Ohio Senate, by a 25-8 vote, passed legislation May 23 enabling Ohio’s racetracks to employ Instant Racing machines, which resemble video lottery terminals but employ previously-run horse races to determine the outcome of games.

Supporters of the bill said the machines would take in about a $1 billion a year in bets. Revenue would be used for a health-care program for senior citizens, an equine program for handicapped children, and equine research. The legislation now goes to the House for a vote, and if it passes that chamber, it will go to Gov. Ted Strickland, who has taken no position on the bill.

The games would be progressive in nature, in that the more money deposited, the higher the payoff. Opponents of the legislation claim Instant Racing, currently in place in Arkansas and Oregon, is simply another form of slot-machine gambling, which Ohio voters rejected in a referendum last November.

According to the legislation, 88% of the money wagered would be returned to players. The remaining 12% would go to track operators, who would have to pay state taxes for various programs, purses for horsemen, and a fee to the Ohio State Racing Commission for administrative purposes.

Ohio has seven racetracks. Beulah Park, River Downs, and Thistledown offer Thoroughbred racing; Lebanon Raceway, Northfield Park, Raceway Park, and Scioto Downs offer harness racing.