Slots at racetracks: not a budget fix


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A quick housekeeping post to catch everyone up on a topic I blogged about a few times last week, now that more information is available. As you recall, we took a look at the Governor’s plan to get more money from the casinos, and noted that it involved giving away lots of potential revenue to the state from expanding the Lottery into slots at the racetrack. I wondered why the Governor’s budget director didn’t include what could be considerable new money, even at the lower tax rate and license fee levels, when the state is so strapped it has to take money from schools and local governments in order to pay its own bills.

Well, as it turns out, the answer is simple. The revenue isn’t going to materialize anytime soon. Even though the Let Ohio Vote people (aka, a team comprised of the husband of Kasich’s chief of staff and his prisons spokesperson) are unlikely to pursue a referendum, the ultra-conservative anti-gambling group, Ohio Roundtable, has said it intends to immediately pursue a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of expanding the Lottery to racetracks.

It’s possible Kasich anticipated the lawsuit, even coming from his right flank, which could explain why he accepted less than Strickland had demanded from the racetracks (which the Dispatch, at the time, said was too little). This, by the way, is why I only estimate that the conference committee has $1.1 billion–and not more–extra money to play with. So don’t expect education to get a boost thanks to this historical expansion of the Lottery, at least anytime soon.

The Roundtable’s lawsuit is interesting on many other grounds. They claim that by paying more in voluntary fees and getting a deal on the Commercial Activities Tax, the casino operators are violating the language of their own constitutional amendment from 2009. They also say that lottery privatization, another budget proposal currently being considered, is unconstitutional on the grounds that Ohio voters approved a ‘state agency’-run lottery, not one operated by a private company. We’ll keep an eye on the Roundtable’s activity, and even if budget season ends and this site goes dormant, we’ll have more for you over at our sister site, Plunderbund.

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