03/29/2010 12:00AM

Voters to decide on Ohio slots


Voters in Ohio will be asked to decide on Nov. 2 whether the state's seven racetracks should be allowed to operate up to 2,500 slot machines each.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner approved the referendum late Friday by certifying the results of a petition drive led by LetOhiovote.org, a group that challenged a budget measure last year supported by Gov. Ted Strickland that would have authorized slot machines at Ohio tracks. Brunner said the group had submitted more than the 300,000 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

Ohio's racetracks have been lobbying for the right to operate slot machines for several years. If approved, the measure would authorize slots at three Thoroughbred tracks - Beulah Park near Columbus, River Downs in Cincinnati, and Thistledown near Cleveland - along with four harness tracks.

The authorization of the ballot measure will give opponents and supporters ample time to attempt to influence the vote. The measure is expected to be opposed by anti-gambling groups, but also by companies that operate slot-machine facilities in neighboring states.

Last November, voters in Ohio approved a ballot measure authorizing casinos in the state's four largest cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. After the measure passed, Penn National Gaming Inc., which received the right to operate the casinos in Columbus and Toledo through the referendum, reached a deal to buy Beulah Park.