On April 13th, 2009, State Representative Louis Blessing stated that he will introduce legislation this week to place two thousand slot machines at each of the state of Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks, including River Downs in Anderson Township and Lebanon Raceway in Warren County. Blessing, a Republican from the Colerain Township, stated that it can be accomplish without voter approval if the gaming is managed by the Ohio Lottery Commission, which already manages the game of Keno.
Possible bankruptcy of the horse racing tracks in Ohio makes approving the state legislation this year more important than ever. The general manager at River Downs, Jack Hanessian, said that he is already competing against two horse racing tracks in Indiana that features slot machines. Hanessian said that they had a lot of losing years and cash losses so he thinks that offering slot machines will help them cope up and stay afloat.
Blessing said he thinks that the slots proposal has enough votes to pass in the state House, although Governor Ted Strickland said that he will veto any brand new gaming legislation that does not include a statewide decision of Ohio voters. That means the result could depend on a legislative decision to override Governor Strickland’s veto. An override requires sixty voters, in the ninety-nine member state House, which is dominated by Democrats and twenty votes in the thirty-three member state Senate, which is dominated by Republicans.
Just last month, the five member of the Ohio State Racing Commission agreed to petition the state legislature to allow video lottery terminals at horse racing tracks. Ohio voters have dismissed referendums to permit casino facilities since 1990. Even so, Penn National Gaming, which manages Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, has joined other gaming supporters supporting another Ohio referendum in November 3rd.
The Ohio Ballot Board will also convene today to study a petition from Penn national and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, who want to operate four casino facilities at Broadway Commons, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo. If their petition is allowed, casino gaming supporters must acquire 402,275 signatures from Ohio voters by July 1st, 2009 for a fall ballot referendum. If casino gaming passes this year and horse racing tracks do not receive a benefit from that action, Hanessian said that Ohio horse racing tracks like the River Downs will shut down. Blessing said that he and Rep. Todd Brook, a Democrat from Portsmouth, will introduce legislation by next week.
Bar owners like the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association are also lobbying for a law that will allow them to offer slot machines. State Senator Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township said that he wish good luck to both Blessing and Book. Seitz said that if it not approved as a standalone proposal, it could be added to the state budget-which legislators must approved by June 30th.