'Instant Racing' Bill Introduced in Ohio Legislature

Legislation to authorize Instant Racing machines, which resemble video lottery terminals but employ recycled races and therefore are considered pari-mutuel, has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate.

Proposed provisions for Instant Racing have been tagged onto the existing Ohio Revised Code governing pari-mutuel activities. The legislation has 18 sponsors in the House and nine in the Senate.

Under the legislation, the Ohio State Racing Commission could grant a racetrack permission to operate Instant Racing “on racing days.” Money bet through Instant Racing would be kept separate from wagers in traditional pari-mutuel pools, and 12% of the amount bet each day would be retained by the racetrack.

Of the 12% retained, 20% would go to the state in the form of a tax; 19% would be put aside for purse accounts; 1% would go to the racing commission for operations; and 60% would go to the racetrack operator.

Of the 19% for purses, Thoroughbred horsemen could direct up to 50% toward breed development and health and benevolence programs, while Standardbred horsemen could direct 50% to breed development, health and benevolence programs, and a fund for harness racing at county fairs.

Racing industry officials predicted an Instant Racing bill would be introduced after the statewide "Learn and Earn" referendum to authorize slot machines at seven racetracks and two non-track locations in Ohio failed to pass last November.

The legislation makes no mention as to the number of Instant Racing machines that could be located at each of the state’s seven racetracks. Ohio has three Thoroughbred tracks (Beulah Park near Columbus, River Downs near Cincinnati, and Thistledown near Cleveland), and four harness tracks (Lebanon Raceway between Cincinnati and Dayton, Northfield Park near Cleveland, Raceway Park in Toledo, and Scioto Downs in Columbus.)

Instant Racing machines are in operation at Oaklawn Park and Southland Greyhound Park in Arkansas, and Portland Meadows in Oregon. The machines have been largely responsible for an about $100,000-a-day increase in purses at Oaklawn since the new decade began.