05/30/2012 1:46PM

Ohio slots challenge thrown out by judge


An Ohio judge has ruled that a group seeking to stop the installation of slot machines at state racetracks does not have legal standing to challenge the order authorizing the devices.

The ruling by the judge will likely remove a barrier that could have prevented the harness track Scioto Downs from opening a casino on Friday. Scioto is the first of seven racetracks in Ohio to commit to building and opening a casino, with the remaining operators waiting on the sidelines because of the legal challenge.

The group challenging the casinos, the Ohio Roundtable, has indicated it will appeal the ruling. The group contended in its suit that Gov. John Kasich did not have the authority to issue an order legalizing slot machines at racetracks late in 2011 without first seeking voter approval.

But Judge Timothy S. Horton of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court said that the Roundtable had not proven that the order represented an attempt to harm the group, and he ordered the suit thrown out without addressing the Roundtable’s contentions.

“Throughout their pleadings and oral arguments, plaintiffs have offered little more than bare assertions of harm or injury,” Horton wrote in his ruling, released on Wednesday. “Given plaintiffs’ dearth of support, the court questions plaintiffs’ real purpose in bringing these claims.”

All three of Ohio’s Thoroughbred racetracks have been purchased by casino companies over the past three years. In 2009, voters passed a referendum authorizing four free-standing casinos in the state’s four largest cities. One of the casinos has already opened.