Lawsuit over slots may slow horse racing plans for Ohio

By Marc Kovac


The conservative American Policy Roundtable has filed suit against Gov. John Kasich over an agreement he inked with casinos that will allow lottery-controlled slots at the state’s horse-racing tracks.

The group said Kasich and lawmakers have exceeded their constitutional authority in reaching the agreement and passing legislation related to the racetracks and casino sites.

It also said voters would have to amend the Ohio Constitution to allow video- lottery terminals and to make other changes affecting the state’s four new casinos.

“It’s all about accountability and where does authority come from and do they have authority to do what they’re doing,” said Rob Walgate, vice president of the American Policy Roundtable. “And according to the law, we believe no, and we’ve made a very strong case that outlines that.”

Bob Tenenbaum, Penn National spokesman, said he hasn’t seen the full lawsuit and declined to comment.

Austintown Trustee Jim Davis said the lawsuit is, “just another bump in the road, another challenge to overcome.” Austintown’s Centerpointe property has been proposed as a site for a Toledo track, should it relocate.

Kasich defends the agreement with the casinos and the VLT plan, however.

“I think what we have done with the casinos and getting more money and moving it along and what we’ve done with VLTs, putting them at the racetracks I think has been good,” the governor said during a meeting with editors from Dix Newspapers earlier this week. “We get revenue from that as well, which ultimately will help our schools in one way or another.”

Earlier this year, Kasich and casino owners reached an agreement on a number of issues related to gambling in the state, including allowing video slots at horse tracks.

Lawmakers OK’d legislation allowing the relocation of tracks. And earlier this week, Kasich and the state lottery and horse racing commissions signed off on emergency rules placing VLTs on a fast track.

This larger casino plan included the possible relocation of current horse tracks owned by Penn National Gaming in Toledo and Columbus to sites in Austintown and Dayton.

But the American Policy Roundtable is arguing that none of those moves were constitutional, since voters have not agreed to allow VLTs at racetracks.

The American Policy Roundtable campaigned against multiple ballot issues since 1988 that sought to expand gambling in the state, including the successful effort in 2009 allowing casinos in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo.

Contributor: Elise Franco, Vindicator staff writer

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