Ohio Governor Ted Strickland issued an executive order in July that will place 2,500 video lottery terminals in each of the state’s seven racetracks. Ohio joins the ranks of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware and New York, which all have lottery racinos.
While Strickland rejected a proposal to allow four full-scale casinos in the state’s major cities, a petition drive gathered enough signatures to be certified for a referendum in November. The Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan would authorize four $250 million regional casinos in the state’s four largest cities, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo. The effort is being financed by Penn National Gaming and Dan Gilbert, the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The state’s Fraternal Order of Police has come out in support of the measure because some of the tax revenue is dedicated to law enforcement.
While the casinos will have to wait for voter approval, the slots could be up and running very quickly.
The legislature approved 17,500 racino terminals and also passed a bill recognizing that Strickland has the authority to put slots in racetracks under the existing lottery amendment that was added to the Ohio constitution in 1973.
Strickland has said he expects the new revenues will add $933 million to the $55.5 billion two-year state budget over the next two years. Proceeds will be earmarked for education.
The casino initiative would, proponents claim, pump $200 million in licensing fees the first year plus $651 million a year in tax revenues that would go to local government and schools.
However, it is also possible that the casinos could hurt the revenues from the racinos. MTR Gaming Group, Inc., owner of Scioto Downs, revealed it is prepared to spend up to $8 million to defeat the initiative in order to prevent its investment from being undermined by the regional casinos.