Racetrack VLT Proposal in Ohio Appears Dead

A proposal to use racetrack video lottery terminals to fund Ohio's educational system is dead, newspapers throughout the state reported Tuesday. A top legislator in the state had suggested that up to 1,500 machines be place in each of Ohio's seven racetracks to raise $900 million over the next two years.

Gov. Bob Taft, Speaker of the House Larry Householder, and Senate President Richard Finan met Monday to discuss school funding. Taft told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he would veto an effort to get VLTs at the tracks, and Householder, who floated the idea, said it's a no-go.

The Ohio Supreme Court has mandated the state have a constitutional funding plan for education in place by June 15. Taft has been in favor of expanded lottery offerings, but said he opposes VLTs because they "really amount to a casino at the racetracks."

The state's horse racing industry had expressed some optimism the VLT proposal would be enacted, but officials didn't make any plans because of the chance it could fail. There had been talk that if the measure passed, major facilities upgrades could be under way by this summer.

Ohio's Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries have taken hits from neighboring states, where racetracks either have VLTs or receive revenue from casino gaming. For example, Thistledown near Cleveland has completely revamped its racing program this year in an effort to compete with Mountaineer Park, a West Virginia track where VLT and slots revenue has increased purses from $22,000 a day to $135,000 a day in five years.