Ohio VLT Measure Fails by Slim Margin in House

by John Kady

The Ohio House of Representatives, by a slim margin, has defeated a proposal to allow video lottery terminals at the state's seven racetracks.

A bill that would allow installation of the VLTs should the public approve passed the Ohio Senate but was defeated in the House early the morning of May 27. The measure, in the form of a constitutional amendment, needed a three-fifths majority in both chambers to be placed on the Nov.2 ballot.

The House, with a vote of 57-40, fell three votes shy.

Paul Tipps, a lobbyist for the racing industry, said it had not yet been determined whether proponents would opt for a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot. To put the issue up for a vote of the people, proponents would have to gather the valid signatures of 323,000 registered voters by Aug. 4.

Education lobbyists opposed the VLT bill on the grounds it would take away support for property tax inceases. They said voters would believe that, with extra money coming in from VLTs, they wouldn't need to vote for property tax increases which are used to partially fund education.

"Ohio should not enact fund-raising gimmicks that are not stable or reliable for education programs," educators said in a letter to Gov. Bob Taft.

The defeated proposal would have provided the state with an estimated $500 million a year for a variety of educaton programs. The tracks would have been required to have 1,800 VLTs up to a maximum of 2,500 devices.

The Ohio Lottery Commission would have operated the VLTs. The racing industry would have shared 48% of the gaming proceeds.