Ohio Gambling Interests to Discuss Legislation

by John Kady

A meeting of Ohio gambling interests, including representatives of the state's seven racetracks, is scheduled for March 24 in Columbus.

The invitations were sent out by Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati-area Republican and supporter of legislation that would have allowed video slot machines at racetracks. Seitz has twice supported video slots legislation only to see the proposals die in the General Assembly.

Now, however, there is a movememt by Indian tribes to establish Las Vegas-style gambling casinos in Ohio. The Eastern Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma, which claims roots in Ohio, has been lobbying for permission to construct casinos. The Ottawa and Delaware tribes have also expressed interest in gambling sites.

Seitz called the March 24 gathering an "exploratory and fact-finding meeting" to allow all interested parties to see if they can work together on gambling legislation. Paul Tipps, a top lobbyist for the racing industry, doesn't see much of a chance for video slots proposals to make it out of the legislature this year.

"Although (the slots proposals) are rattling around" in the legislature, "I don't look for it to make it to the ballot until the election in 2006," Tipps said.

Tipps said the reason such legislation is still being discussed is the state's $5-billion budget shortfall.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, a candidate for the Republican nominaton for governor next year, said recently it would take 20 years and cost about $100 million before gambling casinos could be established in Ohio. Sen. Louis Blessing, another Cincinnati-area Republican, said late last year that he believes a video slots bill could be enacted in 2005.

However, Republican Gov. Bob Taft has reiterated his steadfast opposition of any kind of gambling expansion in Ohio.