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Published: Wednesday, 7/10/2002

Panel OKs Ohio's entry into multistate lottery

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - A gambling study committee yesterday rubber-stamped Ohio's decision to enter a multistate lottery but did not resolve the question of whether the state should introduce slot machines at racetracks.

The Committee to Study the Impact of Gambling yesterday released its final report recommending more study into the economic benefits and social costs of so-called video lottery terminals, or VLTs.

It asks the lottery and horse-racing industry to pay more for treatment of gambling addiction, recommends a similar tax on charitable bingo, and suggests Michigan and other states that target Ohio gamblers pitch in too.

“That's a crazy concept,” said state Sen. Mark Mallory (D., Cincinnati). “Why don't we ask another state to help with our budget deficits?”

A supporter of slot machines at racetracks, he is among three members of the eight-man panel that will be recorded in opposition to the racetrack portions of the report. The advisory panel was established under the same law that paved the way for Ohio's entry into the nine-state MegaMillions game. It held several hearings over a period of two and a half months but had no budget for independent research.

“I'm disappointed we weren't able to get into [VLTs] more, but we needed Ohio-specific data and we didn't have it,” said Chairman Don Mottley, a former Republican state representative from Dayton.

Ohio law authorizes the lottery, betting at seven horse-racing tracks and their off-track parlors, and charitable gaming, including bingo and instant scratch-off tickets. The state has resisted authorizing tracks like Raceway Park to install electronic slot machines to vie with states like West Virginia that use slot revenue to subsidize horse race purses. Gov. Bob Taft opposes the idea.

“I believe the budget situation will warrant another look at VLTs, and I'm sure that will happen near the end of the year,” said Mr. Mallory.

The study recommends that Ohio avoid full-fledged casinos like those in Michigan, as well as attempts to federalize Ohio land as Indian reservations for the purpose of creating casinos.

Although the committee questioned whether the racing industry will survive in Ohio without some enhancement of purses, it shed doubt on the industry's revenue estimates from slot machines.

The industry has suggested that profits could reach $916 million a year, including as much as $275 million for the state treasury. The committee estimated total profits would not exceed $343 million.



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