Bill to Authorize Racetrack VLT Vote Introduced in Ohio

by John Kady

Legislation that would place the issue of racetrack video lottery terminals on the November ballot was introduced in the Ohio Senate June 3. Opponents are already predicting defeat.

Senators Louis Blessing and Ed Fingerhut sponsored the bill. Sen. James Jordan, a foe of VLTs and any type of casino gambling, predicted if the resolution is placed on the ballot, it would be soundly defeated by Ohio voters. Jordan noted Ohio voters twice in the 1990s voted down casino gambling.

"We have every major elected official in Ohio on our side against this issue," Jordan said.

Jordan noted Gov. Bob Taft's opposition and said opponents would also receive support from U.S. Senators George Voinovich and Mike Dewine.

"We are going to mount a credible campaign against this issue," Jordan said. "I think it's going to be real tough for the bad guys to win this one."

Proponents of VLTs claim Ohio is losing millions of dollars a year to gambling interests in neighboring states. There are riverboat casinos in Indiana, racinos in West Virginia, and land-based casinos in Michigan.

The resolution stipulates that most of the state's profits would go to education, including scholarships for Ohio students to attend Ohio colleges and universities.

The proposal calls for each of Ohio seven racetracks to accommodate no less than 1,800 VLTs and no more than 2,500 on their premises. Supporters estimate the machines would bring in $500 million and $700 million a year in revenue.

The Ohio House included the VLT proposal in its budget document, but it was treated as a separate issue in the Senate. A House-Senate conference committee will be named to iron out the differences.