Constituents Urged to Support Ohio VLT Vote

The Ohio Thoroughbred industry is in the midst of a grass-roots campaign to solicit support for a measure that would allow voters to decide whether video lottery terminals should be allowed at the state's racetracks.

A joint resolution drawn up earlier this year remains in the state Senate Ways and Means Committee. Action on the measure probably hinges on how the state handles the issue of funding for education, which is in need of revenue.

River Downs near Cincinnati, and Thistledown near Cleveland, are running information in track programs that asks patrons to contact legislators to urge them to support a referendum on racetrack VLTs. A proposed constitutional amendment would require the state lottery to offer electronic games only at pari-mutuel facilities that conduct at least 30 days of racing.

The VLT issue heated up earlier this year but cooled for lack of legislative support. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners, and Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, have asked constituents to at least make their feelings known to legislators.

"We're waiting to see what the Supreme Court does on the school-funding issue," said Gary Dougherty, executive director of the Ohio HBPA.

Ohio is mandated to provide funding for education. The legislature is expected to tackle that issue sometime after it reconvenes in mid-September.

Ohio has three Thoroughbred tracks and four Standardbred tracks. Officials have said the racing industry in Ohio is losing ground to neighboring states in which racetracks derive revenue from alternative forms of gaming.