06/27/2010 11:00PM

Ohio slots referendum pulled from ballot


A referendum on the November ballot in Ohio that would have asked voters whether to approve slot machines at racetracks was pulled Monday after the group that led the petition drive to get the measure on the ballot asked that it be removed, according to officials in the Secretary of State's office.

LetOhioVote.org, which led the petition drive after successfully challenging a budget measure backed by Gov. Todd Strickland that authorized slot machines at racetracks in 2009, asked the state to remove the referendum in a letter sent to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner on Monday, according to the organization. Kevin Kipper, a spokesperson for Brunner, said the request requires the state to remove the measure from the ballot.

"That's all they have to do," Kipper said. "The majority of the committee members had until Aug. 23 to request it, and so it's done."

In a release, Tom Brinkman, one of the organization's committee members, said the group asked the state to remove the referendum because of a vote last year that authorized casinos at four free-standing locations in the state.

"We successfully defended Ohioans' referendum rights with our victory in the Ohio Supreme Court last year, and then the voters approved a casino-gambling amendment," Brinkman said. "With our primary goals accomplished, it seems imprudent to proceed with a campaign that can be easily rendered moot by a court decision or new legislation authorizing [slot machines]."

The ballot measure was removed one week after two casino-gambling companies, Penn National Gaming Inc. and Harrah's Entertainment, received regulatory approval to purchase Beulah Park near Columbus and Thistledown racetrack near Cleveland. Penn National received the right to operate two of the free-standing casinos in last year's November referendum.

Earlier this year, Brunner issued subpoenas to a Virginia-based company, New Models, which provided all of the funding for LetOhioVote.org, seeking the sources of the group's financing. New Models attempted to quash the subpoena, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Brunner had the right to issue the subpoenas. A hearing is scheduled on July 1 in the Hamilton County Common Pleas court on the ongoing effort to get New Models to divulge its financial providers.

Kipper said that Brunner will push ahead with the probe despite LetOhioVote.org's request to pull the referendum.

"We will continue the investigation," Kipper said. "The two issues are unrelated. We are seeking transparency."