A group that sought a chance for voters to weigh in on whether slot machines should be installed
at Ohio's seven horse tracks has pulled the issue from the November ballot, saying other
discussions already in progress address its concerns.
As anticipated, LetOhioVote.org withdrew its petitions in a letter Monday to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that cited legal shifts since the slots were made legal last year.
The group noted that Ohio voters authorized casinos in four big cities last fall and created a new Casino Control Commission too oversee them, 10TV's Maureen Kocot reported.
WEB EXTRA: Let Ohio Vote Letter (PDF)
Gov. Ted Strickland has also said he would ask the courts to decide a key question regarding the slots: whether they should overseen by the Ohio State Racing Commission or by the state lottery.
Amanda, Wurst, Strickland's spokeswoman, said the governor "has never kept his feelings on
this initiative a secret he thought it was a politically-motivated act that initially had put $851
million in school funding in jeopardy."
"Today's decision does not change his plans to pursue a declaratory judgment to address the outstanding constitutional question about the Lottery's authority to implement VLTs(video lottery terminals) beyond the laws on the books," Wurst said.
The decision follows final action by the racing commission last week on the sale of two of the tracks to two out-of-state gambling giants, Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment and Wyossiming, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming.
Penn is the developer of two of four casinos Ohio voters approved last fall. Harrah's has a contingency agreement with the developer of the other two, Rock Ventures, that could put it in charge of their operation.
"I think people who go to racetracks have wanted this for a long time and I think there are
people who will go to the racetrack because they have slot machines," said Penn National spokesman
Market watchers had theorized that ties between racetrack and casino interests would eliminate the business rivalry that likely contributed to LetOhioVote.org's push for a vote on slots.
"In light of these subsequent developments, the committee believes that its ultimate goal - that new gaming proposals be subjected to a thorough and thoughtful review - will be achieved," committee members Tom Brinkman and David Hansen wrote.
The ballot issue and an associated lawsuit effectively sidelined the new machines just ahead of
the 2009 push to legalize casinos.
A single company, Virginia-based New Models, is listed as the sole contributor to the LetOhioVote.org committee. Brunner has alleged the group's campaign finance reports are masking the true contributors to the effort and is investigating.
January 29, 2010:
Group Short Of Signatures Needed To Place Slots Issue On Ballot
September 21, 2009: Voters Should Decide Gambling Expansion, High Court Rules
September 14, 2009: Strickland Wants Age To Play Slots Raised
July 7, 2009: Ohio Senate Favors Taking Slots To Ballot