Racetrack Gaming Push Hits Another Wall in Ohio

by John Kady

Legislation to put the issue of racetrack video lottery terminals on the ballot in March 2004 has been killed in the Ohio General Assembly, a lobbyist said Dec. 2, the deadline to get the measure passed.

It's another blow to the state's horse racing industry, which continues to struggle. Both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred factions worked closely to push for support for the measure.

"It's dead," said Paul Tipps, lead lobbyist for the Ohio horse racing industry. "It's gone."

Tipps said supporters of the proposal and the racing industry probably would meet in January to decide the next course of action. "We could circulate petitions to put it on the ballot--that would be one way," he said.

The Ohio Senate had passed a proposal to put the issue up for a vote. That bill would have given the state's share of revenue--between $500 million and $700 million a year--to education. Sen. Louis Blessing had proposed changing that provision to put the money into the general revenue fund. That money would have been used it to help revoke a one-cent increase in the sales tax that was passed in June to balance the budget.

However, House Speaker Larry Householder kept the bill bottled up in his chamber. The deadline to act on any VLT that that would have been on the March 2004 primary ballot is Dec. 2.

"The Republican caucus in the House decided not to put it to a vote of the people," Tipps said. "We were close, but it's gone for now."

The seven racetracks in Ohio each would have 1,800 to 2,500 VLTs under the ballot measure.