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Ohio to approve slots at tracks, but could face long road

July 13, 2009

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to sign an executive order authorizing slot machines at horse tracks and is hoping to have gambling dollars rolling into state coffers by May.

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch took at look at what could be a precedent for Ohio’s efforts by recounting Pennsylvania’s road to slots at tracks in an article Sunday.

According to Dispatch reporter James Nash, it took Pennsylvania nearly four years from the governor actually proposing the idea to the first slot machine spinning. Lawsuits, local zoning disputes and public hearings filled the time between 2004 when the legislature approved slots to the end of 2006 when the first became operational.

Nash quotes Doug Harback, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, as saying Ohio could experience delays of several years between approving slots and seeing revenue.

In Ohio, the slots proposal is being offered as a way to balance the state’s budget while the primary thrust in Kentucky has been the salvation of the struggling horse industry.

Some of the same arguments being used in Ohio to stop expanded gambling could just as easily come from opponents of the measure here in Kentucky.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, using an opinion he rendered as state attorney general, said the state can allow slots at tracks under the constitutional amendment creating the Kentucky Lottery Corp. without requiring additional changes to the state’s constitution.

It’s that type of argument that opponents in Ohio are trying to counter.

“Last time I checked, (Ted Strickland) was elected governor, not king,” said David Zanotti, executive director of the anti-gambling Ohio Roundtable, according to the Associated Press. “It’ll be interesting if the governor has the courage to take this stand in court and explain to the people of Ohio how in 1973 their vote (in favor of the Ohio Lottery) authorized casino-style gambling in racetracks in this state.”

Regardless of the differences in why supporters are pushing slots, Kentucky’s experience were the legislature to approve slots at tracks could likely mirror what Pennsylvania went through.

Given the opposition to expanded gambling in Kentucky and questions about the constitutionality of the legislature allowing slots at tracks, approval by the General Assembly could be just the first in a series of hurdles before track owners, horse breeders and the state begin raking the dollars in.

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One Comment
  1. Ed Marksberry permalink
    July 13, 2009 2:07 pm

    I have heard that the horse industry here in Kentucky employ over 50,000 people. That is about as many that work in the coal industry. Do you think our state legislatures work on behalf of both industries equally?

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