Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ohio casino legislation/litigation update

Updating Ohio's gambling picture a bit, the Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday morning reported that Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner had ruled last Monday that proponents wanting to build four casinos in Ohio, including one here in Cincinnati, had more than enough signatures on petitions to have the issue put on the ballot this November.

"The plan to expand gambling, however, is complicated by the fact that the Ohio General Assembly last week approved Gov. Ted Strickland's approval of up to 2,500 slot machines at seven horse tracks, including River Downs and Lebanon Raceway," according to the article.

Ohio is hoping to add electronic slot machines at horseracing tracks as early as next May to close its budget gap, but interest group LetOhioVote filed suit Monday seeking to force a popular vote on the slot machine venture. The Court set the briefing schedule for that case last Tuesday.

The validity of those petitions, first-mentioned, is also being contested, and the article says Secretary Brunner has "launched a separate investigation over allegations by a horse track owner that fraud may have been committed by petition circulators, who reportedly included signatures of deceased voters and fake addresses. But under new state constitutional provisions, the power to adjust signature totals is now with the Ohio Supreme Court." That probe could include the potential for criminal prosecution of election wrongdoings.

The briefing schedule for that case, set last Monday, runs through July 28th., with the state’s response to the complaint due yesterday. Requests for time extensions are not going be permitted. [ Case Docket ]

Last month the Ohio Council of Churches and United Methodist Church said they were going to file similar actions asking the Ohio Supreme Court to declare the casino plans unconstitutional, and Warren County Commissioners said they not only wouldn't allow video slots on county-owned property and the Lebanon Raceway, but that they were also of the opinion that the proposal was unconstitutional. Warren County Commissioners considered, but also did not pursue, similar legal action. ( Here )

Kentucky's casino bill died in its Senate back in June. "State leaders there," an Evansville CourierPress article had said, "have debated for years whether Kentucky, a state with a long tradition of betting on horse races, can offer casino-style gambling at the tracks. Opponents argue that the state constitution specifically forbids casino-style gambling, while proponents contend a constitutional amendment that allowed a state lottery opened the door."

Casinos and gambling seem on the minds of all three tri-state governments. "House Bill 2 could be revived in the remaining hours of a special legislative session if 20 of the 38 senators vote to discharge it from committee," a article had said, "or if House and Senate leaders agree in a free conference committee to attach it to an unrelated bill that goes to the governor's desk. Lawmakers said neither option is likely." Meanwhile, "concerned in part by potential competition from Ohio and Kentucky," a July 12th. Louisville Courier-Journal article said, Indiana lawmakers were going to study that state's gambling industry to see how best to position their casinos and protect that state's revenue.

Dayton Daily News article

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