Ohio Supreme Court derails plans for racetrack slots

Sep 22, 2009 5:04 PM
Industry Insider by Ray Poirier |

Ohio’s effort to authorize slot machine installations at its seven racetracks by executive order was struck down Monday by the state Supreme Court.

In a 6-1 ruling, the court said that only a vote of the people could advance slot machines. The court ordered that the secretary of state accept a petition that would place the slot machine question on the November, 2010, ballot.

Lawmakers thought they would get around legal questions regarding the necessity of a vote by placing language in the bill that made expected revenues from the machines part of the state budget. They expected the slots revenue would close a $1 billion budget shortfall.

 The justices, however, overrode the lawmakers’ language making the revenue an "appropriation," thus shielding it from the ballot requirement.

The majority ruling specifically noted that it was not up to the court to worry about the impact of its decisions on the state budget.

It now appears likely that voters next year will be asked to decide on whether the state should have racetrack slot machines or four casinos that would be authorized by a second referendum, or both.

And, Gov. Ted Strickland, who issued the slots executive order and included the revenue in his budget, must now find a way to replace those gaming dollars.