07/15/2010 12:58PM

Ohio lottery may seek court ruling on slot machines


The Ohio Lottery Commission will vote on Monday on whether to ask a judge to issue an opinion on the legality of installing slot machines at the state’s seven racetracks, according to a spokeswoman for the lottery.

“We need legal clarity,” said Jeannie Roberts, the spokeswoman. “That’s our priority. The whole question is whether the governor and the lottery can proceed with this plan legally.”

Gov. Ted Strickland proposed allowing 2,500 slot machines at each of Ohio’s three Thoroughbred and four harness tracks last year as part of a budget measure. The proposal was blocked, however, when a group won the right in court to put a petition on the November ballot asking voters to approve the measure. That group dropped its referendum effort earlier this year.

If the motion to ask a judge to issue an opinion passes, Roberts said that the lottery will likely abide by the judge’s determination. Efforts to grant authority to racetracks to operate slot machines through state lottery regulations without legislative approval have a mixed track record of success in states.

“This could be the first step in a very long process,” Roberts said. “But I would think that if the judge says that we don’t have the authority to do it, we won’t proceed with it.”

The commission will also vote on Monday on new rules on racetrack slot machines to replace rules drafted last year. According to Roberts, the new rules do not include amounts for license fees or tax rates on racetrack slot machines, in an acknowledgement that “the competitive landscape in Ohio has obviously changed.”

Last November, voters approved a ballot measure allowing free-standing casinos in Ohio’s four largest cities.