Ohio VLT Vote Needs More Valid Signatures

by John Kady

A petition drive to allow a vote on video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks was 8,716 signatures short as of Aug. 30, but more will be submitted within the next two weeks.

The office of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell ruled that of the 624,525 signatures submitted, the number of validated signatures fell short of the 322,899 needed to put the VLT question on the November ballot.

The petition drive was conducted by the Ohio Learn and Earn Committee in the form of a constitutional amendment that would be voted on Nov. 7. Ian James, a spokesman for Learn and Earn, said he expected the initial signature drive would fall short.

"We have been tracking this for the last two weeks, so we were not surprised," James said. "We have been collecting more signatures and will submit another 50,000 of them within about a week. We are going to be on the ballot, and we're starting our television campaign very shortly."

The committee now has 10 days to submit more signatures.

The amendment would allow VLTs at Beulah Park and Scioto Downs in the Columbus area, Thistledown and Northfield Park in the Cleveland area, River Downs near Cincinnati, Lebanon Raceway near Dayton, and Raceway Park in Toledo. It would also allow for two standalone VLT casinos in Cleveland.

An estimated $800 million in revenue per year from the machines would be used to finance scholarships for Ohio students at Ohio colleges. Another $200 million a year would be distributed to all of the state's 88 counties for economic development.

The horse racing industry would get about $171 million a year, but a specific breakdown for each track has not yet been determined. Overall, purses and breed development would for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing would get about 6% of gross VLT revenue, according to individuals in the industry.