Ohio Senate OKs VLT Ballot Question for 2004

by John Kady

The Ohio Senate on Oct. 15 took a major step in approving video lottery terminals for the state's seven racetracks. The Senate, by 24-9 vote, approved a bill that would put the issue of VLTs before the public in the March 2, 2004 primary.

The legislation now goes before the Ohio House, where its future is uncertain. House Speaker Larry Householder has said he wants the revenue, in total estimated at $500 million to $700 million a year, to be used to eliminate a one-cent incease in the sales tax. The tax was enacted in June to balance the state budget.

The Senate bill would provide funds for scholarships for Ohio students at Ohio colleges and universities.

Under the bill, the seven tracks would get 48% of the gross revenue from the machines. Each track would have a minimum of 1,800 VLTs up to a maximum of 2,500.

Gov. Bob Taft has opposed VLTs and killed one such bill last fall. Proponents claim Ohio is losing millions of dollars to border states that have casino gambling or racetrack gaming.