12/02/2003 1:00AM

Ohio slot-machine bid fails


An effort to get slot machines at Ohio racetracks approved by voters in a March referendum has failed, Ohio racing officials and lobbyists said on Tuesday, the deadline for getting approval for the initiative to be placed on the March ballot.

Paul Tipps, a lobbyist for the racing industry, said that Republicans in the state House had declined on Tuesday to pass a measure that would have put the question on the ballot, citing concerns over where proceeds from the machines would go. The issue is dead for this year, Tipps said, but racetracks hope to revive the effort in 2004.

"We'll get together sometime early next year and we'll see what we're going to do," Tipps said.

The legislation would have allowed 1,800 to 2,500 slot machines at each of Ohio's seven Thoroughbred and harness tracks. Racetracks had estimated that the machines would gross $1 billion a year, with $500 million going to the state.

The Ohio Senate passed a measure earlier this year earmarking the state's share of slot proceeds for education. But House Republicans had objected to the plan, saying the state's general fund should receive the allotment to help close a budget gap.