By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation accommodating planned “racinos” near Youngstown and Dayton and elsewhere in the state.
House Bill 386 includes a number of gambling-related provisions related to Ohio’s four new casinos, horse- racing tracks and video- lottery terminals and sweepstakes parlors.
The governor signed the legislation in private Monday, more than two weeks after the Ohio House and Senate finalized a compromised version and passed it under an emergency clause, meaning it took effect as soon as the Kasich added his signature.
The signing takes a proposed Austintown horse track a step closer to reality, though owner Penn National Gaming still has to secure the necessary permits from the state racing commission.
“I know the people in the Mahoning Valley were really excited about the track,” Kasich said. “That’s going to happen. And the lawsuit was dismissed. You’re going to see the horses enter the starting gate. They’re going to come out safely and smoothly.”
Among other provisions, HB 386 includes funding for gambling addiction and related services and places a moratorium on the opening of new Internet cafes and registration requirements on existing locations.
The final legislation also included more than $2 million for Austintown and other communities that become home to horse tracks and video-lottery terminals — $1 million payments per city or township, to be paid in December and June, and $500,000 annually thereafter, via a memorandum of understanding to be finalized by the governor’s office, according to documents.
“I think that the administration will live up to the agreement, and I trust that they will,” said said Rep. Ronald Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown who pushed for a dedicated funding stream for police, firefighter and other services in communities that play host to horse-racing tracks with state-operated electronic slot machines.
The bill signing came a little more than a week after a Columbus judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the conservative Ohio Roundtable, which challenged the constitutionality of allowing video slots at horse tracks without a vote of the people to amend the state constitution.
Kasich said Monday that it was only a matter of time before voters would have signed off on the VLT plan.
“We got the casinos by referendum, and it was just inevitable that we were going to end up with VLTs by referendum,” Kasich said.
“And I think it’s better to do it in an orderly way. The taxpayers will benefit from this. We’ve controlled the total number of facilities, because we don’t want to turn Ohio into some gambling state.”
He added, “I think we’ve held the line pretty well on this.”