Slots Legislation Ready in Ohio

By John Kady

Legislation legalizing video lottery terminals at Ohio's race tracks will be introduced in the Ohio Senate next week.

Sen. Kevin Loughlin, a Republican, said the legislation is in the form of a referendum, meaning it would go before Ohio voters in the March primary.

He said the enabling legislation for the bill would set aside funds for a variety of scholarships at Ohio's universities and colleges for Ohio high school seniors.

Coughlin said the money would fund 12,500 scholarships the first year and up to 48,000 the fourth year.

"I am confident we have the votes for (passage)," said Coughlin.

It has been estimated slots would bring in about $700 million a year with each of the state's seven track having a minimum of 1,800 slots to a maximum of 2,500 of the machines.

If the legislation passes the Senate it then goes to the House for approval before it can be placed on the March ballot.

"This issue is very well defined," said Paul Tipps, a lobbyist working for enactment of the legislation. "It allows for scholarships at every high school and for going to every university or college. From Ohio State to Oberlin."

Tipps didn't project how the legislation would go in the House.

"At least we will be getting it out of one chamber," he said.

The issue of video slots is strongly opposed by Gov. Bob Taft, who managed to kill a proposal in the legislature late last year. Another attempt, linking slots to a drug prescription plan, died in committee earlier this year.