Ohio Looks To Introduce Video Poker At Racetracks
Lawmakers in Ohio are yet again looking at raising revenue from gambling in order to fund K-12 education. A fresh proposal has been introduced that seeks to allow racetrack slots parlors in the state to offer video-based poker.
The proposal which has been included in the state’s budget for the next two years and wants racinos to program the game into their existing video lottery terminals (VLTs).
This measure is expected to raise $12.5 million that will be used towards K-12 education.
Racinos that operate in Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Lebanon and Youngstown, have approval to operate up to 2,500 VLTs, which are treated as extensions of the Ohio Lottery rather than as gaming. Profits from racino operations are sent towards K-12 education and the horse-racing industry.
Lawmakers have turned to gambling after being faced with the challenge of finding revenue sources to plug the $800 million gap in the two year budget presented by Gov. John Kasich. The budget has currently included $80 million in basic aid over the two years for school districts but several could still face cuts. The new measure is expected to add nearly $2.5 million to the state’s the horse-racing industry as well.
Four casinos in the state – Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati and Columbus already offer poker through VLTs. Citizens for Community Values (CCV) which opposes the move has alleged that lawmakers were pushing through gambling expansion not included in the casino constitutional amendment approved by state voters in 2009.
In a statement, Aaron Baer CCV President said,
Let’s be clear, by putting this significant expansion of gambling into the budget, some lawmakers are attempting to sneak one by their constituents. The voters defeated the expansion of gambling four times and ultimately only approved it on a limited basis. Not only would it be unethical to expand gambling in this way, it is possibly unconstitutional.
The proposal must reach Gov. Kasich’s desk for approval before June 30 when the fiscal year ends. The chamber is expected to send the bill to the Senate next month. Danielle Frizzi-Babb, spokesman for the lottery commission, has clarified that the addition of video poker provision wasn’t requested by the agency.
The proposed budget includes another provision under which the lottery commission will pay a lesser share of the revenue to racinos, down to 65.5 percent from 66.5 percent. This is expected to boost profits for the lottery commission by around $9 million per year but the racing commission, which receives a portion of the racinos’ income, will see a drop of $125,000 in income.
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