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Slots compromise in the making

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published July 5, 2009

Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly wanted Gov. Ted Strickland to sign an executive order legalizing video lottery terminals (slot machines) in Ohio, just as he did with Keno. The governor, who well knows that the 2010 statewide election is driving much of the debate on Ohio's biennium budget, has refused to be taken in.

Strickland wants the Republicans as invested in the expansion of gambling in Ohio as he would be so that it won't be an issue next year when he seeks re-election. Last week it seemed there was impasse on the issue of slots, which would be placed in Ohio's seven horse-racing tracks and, according to the governor, would generate more than $900,000 a year.

Indeed, state Sen. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, said in an interview Saturday on "The Valley's Talkin' With Doc and Bert" on 1330 WGFT that he favors giving the people of Ohio a vote on the expansion of gambling and would rather see a proposal that has slots as part of casino-style gaming. In addition, Husted, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said the state should sell licenses to the higest bidder.

But the governor says there isn't time to put an issue on the November ballot since the state's biennium budget must be passed as soon as possible.

There is now talk that a compromise is in the offing: Strickland would sign the executive order legalizing VLTs, but the General Assembly — Democrats control the House and Republicans the Senate — would have to pass legislation amending existing law to include slot machines.

State Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Liberty, minority leader in the Senate, says that the statutes which permit the state-run lottery also applies to Keno because they are both paper-based gambling devices. Slots, on the other hand, are machine-based and, therefore, the statutes would have to be amended to permit them.

Cafaro has been working behind the scenes to forge a compromise so that neither Republicans nor Democrats will be able to use the expansion of gambling as an issue next year.

We'll know this week if she was successful.


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