Ohio VLT Revenue Agreement Remains Stalled

Ohio VLT Revenue Agreement Remains Stalled
Photo: Courtesy Scioto Downs
VLTs at Scioto Downs

The lack of an agreement on a revenue split from video lottery terminals continues to keep the signal from Thistledown Racino from being exported outside of Ohio.

Officials indicated June 27 there have been no negotiations. Thistledown began its live meet in mid-April soon after opening its VLT operation; the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association pulled its approval for export of the signal opening day.

The issue came up during the Ohio State Racing Commission meeting.

"We have not reached an agreement," said Thistledown director of racing David Ellsworth, who noted he isn't handling the discussions with horsemen.

"I've sent three letters and haven't received a response, written or oral," Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler told OSRC members.

With wagering on the product only available on track, at other Ohio facilities, and some advance deposit wagering services, total pari-mutuel handle often falls short of $100,000 a day. Purses are being supported by VLT revenue, but because there is no deal between the track and horsemen, the minimum of 9% is being escrowed.

"You might be leaving money on the table," OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz told Basler and Ellsworth.

No Ohio track, Thoroughbred or Standardbred, has a deal with horsemen on VLT revenue. Scioto Downs, the other track with operating VLTs, has been putting 9% into escrow since its gaming parlor opened in June 2012; purses there have tripled in the past year.

A 2012 gambling cleanup law sets the percentage of VLT revenue that can go to purses at 9% to 11%. The OSRC has the authority to set the percentage for all seven tracks, but Schmitz has said he wants the tracks and horsemen to reach an agreement themselves.

Meanwhile, Ellsworth said Thistledown owner Rock Ohio Gaming is performing renovations to racing areas of the North Randall facility. He said new flat-screen televisions and lighting are being installed on the fourth floor, and a restaurant is being upgraded.

Schmitz questioned why televisions in a sixth-floor betting area aren't being replaced; Ellsworth said they are fairly new.

"If you do it in one place, why not do it throughout (the building)?" Schmitz said.

"The entire scope of the work is under consideration," Ellsworth said. "We're still having those discussions."

The plan, he said, is to have the renovations done in time for the July 27 Ohio Derby (gr. III), the only graded stakes in the state.

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