Ohio VLT Proposal Appears on Fast Track--Again

by John Kady

Supporters of legislation to allow video lottery terminals at Ohio's seven racetracks hope to win approval to put the proposal on the November ballot before the legislative session ends for the summer.

Sen. Louis Blessing, one of the leading proponents of the proposal, said he has enough votes in the Senate for the two-thirds majority needed to put the billl up for a vote of the people.

Rep. Bill Seitz, sponsor of the bill in the House, said he's hopeful he can drum up enough suport to pass the House version of the proposed constitutional amendment.

"We're running around trying to pick up the votes needed," Seitz said.

Blessing said that under the proposal, the state would get more than $500 million a year to use for a variety of education proposals. A plan to allow casinos in some urban areas was dropped from the bill.

The tracks would be required to have a minimum of 1,800 VLTs, up to a maximum of 2,500. The Ohio Lottery Commission would operate the devices.

The racing industry would get 48% of the gross proceeds from VLTs. It isn't clear what percentage would go toward purses and breed development, but negotations have been ongoing to increase the amount from the 7.5% discussed last year. One recent scheme would award 12% to purses and 1% to breed development.

Gov. Bob Taft opposes the installation of racetrack VLTs, but under Ohio law, he can't veto a proposed constitutional amendment.