The most optimistic early expectations called for Ohio racetrack video lottery terminals to be up and running right about now, with the state’s first casinos not far behind. But things don’t always work out as planned, and it may be a few months before the wheels will be spinning.
The casinos in Cleveland and Toledo will open this spring, and each hopes to be the first. Cleveland’s original target was March 26, with Toledo opening on April 1; as yet neither facility has received an operating license. Consultant Spectrum Gaming Group recommended delaying the openings so the investigations aren’t rushed, and also suggested providing more separation between the two. The Ohio Casino Control Commission may announce the opening dates at its February 15 meeting.
The Commission recently issued the rules under which the casinos will operate, and legislation is currently making its way through the system to modify the states’ gaming laws to provide a formal regulatory framework for the casinos and racetrack VLTs; charitable gaming is also part of the bill. House Bill 386 should get a House vote next week and if approved, it would then move on to the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Lottery Commission, which will oversee the VLT operations at the tracks, expects to have final GLI approval of the gaming system next week and after that it is pretty much ready to go whenever the tracks are. Only one racetrack has applied for a VLT license, Scioto Downs in Columbus, and it was issued a temporary license by the Lottery. Scioto began construction of its gaming facility in December, and expects to open in the second quarter with 2,125 machines.
Other tracks are likely waiting for the outcome of a lawsuit challenging VLTs before making any commitments. Pending positive resolution, Penn National Gaming has announced its intention to relocate two racetracks to avoid competition from the two casinos the company is building in the state. Toledo’s Raceway Park would be relocated to Dayton, while Columbus’s Beulah Park would be moved near Youngstown.