Last week, many changes were made to the proposed budget for the state of Ohio, with one change involving video poker and racinos. Lawmakers are searching for a way to raise revenues for Kindergarten through 12th grade education and are looking to gambling to do so. A new provision was added to the budget that would allow the racinos of the state to add video poker to the video lottery terminals they already offer in efforts to raise additional funds for education.
The change has been estimated to bring as much as $12.5 million in earnings for education in the state, which is much-needed as lawmakers are trying to close an $800 million gap within the $66.9 billion two year budget proposal sent by Governor John Kasich. $80 million in standard assistance was provided to school districts over the two year time frame but half of the schools could still experience cutbacks as the money is put through the formula of disbursement.
With the gambling addition, it would also mean more for the horse-racing industry; about $2.5 million more. Profits from the racinos already benefit the horse racing industry as well as K-12 education. Every racetrack is allowed to provide as many as 2,500 video lottery terminals that are treated like electronic extensions of the state lottery instead of slot gaming.
According to the Toledo Blade, Citizens for Community Values, a group based in Cincinnati, has predicted that the proposal will see the state in court, having to defend the gambling expansions that are not included in the voter approved casino constitutional amendment from 2009. The group is urging Cliff Rosenberger, the House Speaker, to pull the amendment before the proposed budget is sent to the full House this week, by the House Finance Committee.
The House Finance Committee is expected to be sending their version of House Bill 49 to the state Senate this week. The final version of the bill has to be on the governor’s desk by June 30th which is the end of the fiscal year.
Aaron Baer, the President of CCV, stated that by placing the gambling expansion in the budget, some lawmakers are trying to ‘sneak one by their constituents’. According to Baer, voters denied a gambling expansion four times and only approved gambling on the limited basis, so this change would be unethical in the manner in which it is being approved as well possibly unconstitutional, according to Baer.