Slots Opposition Growing in Ohio Senate

By John Kady

Opposition to legislation recently introduced in the Ohio Senate that would allow video slot machines at the state's seven racetracks is continuing to mount

"In my 40 years as a public official, it is clear to me that the societal costs of casino gambling far outweigh any financial benefits touted by the proponents," Sen. George Voinovich said in a statement.

The bill, introduced as emergency legislation by Sen. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, would bring in an estimated $500 million a year to be used to help fund education in Ohio. It would authorize the installation of 14,000 video slots at the seven tracks. The bill was introduced as emergency legislation to avoid putting it on the general ballot for a vote.

Gov. Bob Taft has vowed to veto the bill and has said he would work to kill any attempt to override his veto.

"Mini-casinos are wrong for Ohio's families," said Sen Mike Dewine in a letter to opponents of the bill.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, Attorney General Montgomery, Treasurer Joseph Deters and Auditor Joseph Petro, all Taft appointees, also say they oppose the bill.

Scott Pullins of the Ohio Taxpayer Association says his group supports the legislation. Pullins said Ohioans gamble everyday, "especially across the border" in neighboring states.

Pullins cited the casinos in Indiana and Michigan and the video slots at racetracks in West Virginia. Revenues have increased 9.6 percent at Indiana's riverboats and are up 14.8 percent at three casinos in the Detroit area, while video slots profits at West Virginia tracks are up by more than 30 percent, according to a survey by the Columbus Dispatch.