Look for an end run around Ohio voters

Mar 23, 2009 8:37 PM
by Ray Poirier |

Ohio voters have consistently opposed expansion of gambling in their state, thus putting their racetracks, both thoroughbred and harness, in financial jeopardy.

So, the Ohio Racing Commission is recommending that each of the state’s seven racetracks be allowed to install 2,000 video lottery machines (VLT).

And the plan is to have the legislature, not the voters, act on the proposal.

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Tom Zaino is a racing commission member as well as a former member of the state’s tax commission. He also acts as a consultant to Gov. Ted Strickland, who has consistently opposed gambling expansion.

"Five of the seven racetracks will close in the next several years if no action is taken," Zaino warns. Plus, he says, the state could benefit from slots revenues. He sees the machines producing $1 billion 2010 and much more as time goes on.

Under his proposed legislation, each track would pay a $50 million licensing fee, payable over two years. In return, the tracks would keep 50% of the revenues.

Opposing the play is a consortium that seeks to ask voters in November to approve four casinos in the state’s largest cities. So far, each time casino referendums have faced the voters, they have been rejected.