07/19/2010 7:07PM

Ohio lottery will ask court to rule on slots


The Ohio Lottery Commission voted on Monday to ask the state's judiciary to issue a legal opinion about whether the commission could proceed with a plan to allow slot machines at the state's seven racetracks.

The nine commissioners voted unanimously to seek the opinion, according to the commission, though the state's attorney general is still considering which court should handle the request. In addition, "no date has been established for moving forward legally," according to a release from the commission.

"We're excited that [the commission] agrees with us, that this is an appropriate question," said Jeannie Roberts, a spokesperson for the lottery.

Ohio's racetracks, including River Downs, Thistledown, and Beulah Park, have sought the ability to operate slot machines for a decade. Last year, Gov. Ted Strickland approved a budget resolution granting the tracks the right to operate 2,500 machines each, but the measure was successfully challenged in court by a group that contended the executive branch could not authorize additional forms of gambling without a referendum.

The group, LetOhioVote.org, abruptly withdrew the referendum late in June, citing the results of a referendum in November, 2009, in which voters approved free-standing casinos in each of Ohio's four largest cities.

The lottery is seeking an opinion on whether a measure similar to that approved by Strickland could go forward without legislative approval, under regulations drafted by the lottery. Several states have sought to expand slot-machine operations to racetracks under similar conditions.

Also on Monday, the commission voted unanimously to throw out earlier rules governing slot machines at racetracks in favor of new rules. Unlike the rules that were discarded, the rules approved on Monday do not assign percentages of the slot-machine revenue to specific parties.