Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lawmakers reviving video slots at tracks

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Electronic slot machines on Ohio racetracks would fund college scholarships and future school funding increases, under a proposal lawmakers are resurrecting and want voters to approve in November.

The proposal is the latest legislative attempt to follow the lead of other states and tap what one estimate says could be hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for Ohio.

The new plan would split the money between college scholarships and basic state aid to schools. An unsuccessful proposal last year would have spent most of the money on scholarships.

It's imperative that lawmakers look at ways to increase state funding for schools, even though the Ohio Supreme Court has ended a lawsuit demanding more money, said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who is helping craft the new plan.

"I personally think it not terribly likely that the schools will need less in the future," Seitz said Wednesday.

Placing 2,500 slots at Ohio's seven racetracks could raise between $410 million and $820 million a year for the state, according to an October analysis by the Legislative Service Commission, a bipartisan agency that studies the financial impact of bills.

Gov. Bob Taft said Wednesday that he continues to oppose any video gambling plan.

"Any kind of large-scale video slot machines at racetracks," Taft said, "basically amounts to casino gambling, that the people of Ohio have twice defeated."

Taft said documented social problems such as gambling addictions arise wherever casino gambling develops.

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