Ohio Senate May Add VLT Provision to Budget Bill

By John Kady

The Ohio Senate is considering legislation to place on the November ballot a constitutional amendment to legalize video lottery terminals at Ohio racetracks.

The Ohio House earlier this year included the proposal in its version of the state budget. The House bill would include a temporary one-cent increase in the state sales tax. If voters approved the VLT measure, the sales tax would be rescinded.

Senate president Doug White said if his chamber adopts the new proposal, it would be removed from the budget and voted on by the public as a separate issue. White said the VLT bill, estimated to bring in between $500 million to $700 million in revenue a year, would earmark a certain percentage of the funds for a scholarship fund for Ohio students to use at Ohio colleges. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Ed Fingerhut.

Gov. Bob Taft has opposed any legislation to legalize VLTs and last fall derailed a proposal that was about to be enacted by the Republican-controlled Senate. However, GOP lawmakers now apparently believe the proposed amendment, which allows voters to decide, would soften Taft's opposition.