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Governor Stricklands Pushes for Slot Machines at Ohio Racing Tracks

On June 19th, 2009, Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio approved a proposal to offer slot machines in the state without putting the decision to state voters to prevent even more cuts to important services. Gov. Strickland said that this was the option among several difficult choices that were available to him at the moment. He said that if the economy is in a good condition, he would have probably not have made this decision.

But even with the slots gaming proposal, Strickland proposed an additional $2.4 billion budget cuts which includes closing another state juvenile detention facility, reducing dental services for individuals who do not have any insurance, reduce monetary assistance for the physically and mentally disabled individuals, reduce subsidies for child care and reduce college scholarships and monetary aid. The proposed budget cuts and revenue from slot machines would help in solving the estimated $3.2 billion budget deficit that Ohio is facing.

Governor Strickland proposed an unspecified number of machines at Ohio's seven racing tracks including Toledo's Raceway Park, stating that it would raise an estimated $933 million over the next two years through licensing costs and machine profits. After supporting a number of other revenue changes, the financial gain to the state would be about $765 million. A proposal previously supported by the Ohio State Racing Commission would have allowed up to 2,000 slot machines at racing tracks, raising slightly more than Governor Strickland's proposal.

The governor said that he did not have any specific details on how many slot machines would be allowed at each racing park. The machines would only be allowed at the racing tracks themselves and not at their betting parlors. Strickland has decided to ask the General Assembly to approve the VLT's as an extension of the state's lottery commission, thereby sidestepping the need for a constitutional change approved by the state voters.

The Ohio Roundtable, a staunch critic of expanded gaming Ohio said that the financial crisis is not an excuse for the Gov. Strickland to change the constitution without the consent of the state voters. Legislators must approve a budget by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30th, 2009.

The governor has repeatedly stated that he did not believe it would be an excellent idea to balance the budget with revenue from slot machines, drawing a line between that and his decision last year to allow bars to offer electronic keno as part of the state lottery. All earnings from slot machines would be allotted toward K-12 education.

A number of states in the US like Pennsylvania are reviewing the merits of expanding casino gaming in an attempt to improve their budgets. Delaware's governor proposed legalizing sports wagering and Massachusetts Governor has proposed three state-managed slots parlors.


Sunday, 05 July 2009
Alex Van Der Butz