Governor Kasich signed into law HB 277 which implements portions of an agreement reached with casino owners. This law will make it easier for horse racing tracks to relocate.
Among the provisions of this new law:
- Establishes the process for racetrack owners to request relocation from the Ohio State Racing Commission. Under the new law, preferential treatment will be given to applications involving moves to areas that don’t have existing casinos or horse racing tracks. Although no specific racetracks were named, it is widely believed owners of racetracks in Columbus and Toledo will ask to move to Dayton and Youngstown;
- Allows for video lottery terminals (VLTs) at Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks. However, the final authorization must come from the Ohio Lottery Commission;
- Racinos may move to within 20 miles of an existing racetrack. The Ohio House had originally proposed 50 miles;
- Creation of the Casino Operator Settlement Fund. This will hold the extra $220 million that Governor Kasich secured through negotiations with the casino operators. The money will be used for workforce and economic development, job creation, training, food banks, education and other expenses;
- Casinos are no longer subjected to a central record-keeping system unless they are in violation of the law;
- Only those persons having a 5% or more interest need to be identified. Current law states 3%;
- Casino licenses are renewed every three years. Renewal fees will be what it costs to review the renewal application;
- Casinos may be opened in phases such as Cleveland plans to do;
- Promotional or ‘comped’ betting (free chips usually reserved for valued customers) will be exempt from taxes.
In other news, Spectrum Gaming Group, one of the consultants hired to advise the Casino Commission, has set target dates for the opening of Ohio’s four casinos. They are March 26, 2012, for the Cleveland site, April 2, 2012, for the Toledo site, November,2012 for the Columbus site and February 2013 for the Cincinnati site. Spectrum also outlined a timetable for licensing the casinos.
And Penn National has asked Judge Gregory Frost for a two-week extension to meet the terms of the federal court settlement. Under the terms of the settlement, each party is entitled to ask for one extension, although Columbus and Franklin County officials don’t believe they will need any additional time.