Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Ohio moves on multistate lottery

Which game is yet to be seen

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — The Ohio Lottery is forging ahead with its plans to join a multistate lottery such as Powerball, or perhaps create its own game with other states.

        Powerball officials came to Cleveland last week to pitch their game to Ohio Lottery Director Dennis Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy was also in Pittsburgh, talking with Pennsylvania Lottery Director Bob Mars about forming a new multistate game.

        The private meetings are a result of Gov. Bob Taft's proposal to link the Ohio Lottery to a multistate game in an effort to reverse sagging revenues. Lawmakers, however, are weighing another funding plan that would put casino-style slot machines at Ohio racetracks.

        The Legislature must pass a law before Ohio could join Powerball or its lesser-known rival, the Big Game, or form a game of its own. Constance Miller, the Ohio Lottery's assistant director, called the discussions preliminary and said no offers, decisions or commitments were made.

        “We got an overview of how the (Multi-State Lottery Association) works,” Ms. Miller said of the meeting with Powerball officials. “Actually, the Pennsylvania Lottery director called us.”

        The Pennsylvania State Lottery Commission is “looking at any option to increase sales and jackpots,” said spokeswoman Sally Danyluk. An Ohio-Pennsylvania lottery could boost sales for both states, she said.

        Like Ohio, Ms. Danyluk said Pennsylvania lottery officials suffer a drop in sales and revenue whenever Powerball jackpots exceed $100 million.

        The Ohio Lottery estimates it loses up to $300 million a year in potential sales to Powerball states Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, and to Big Game state Michigan. The Kentucky Lottery estimates up to 10 percent of its sales come from Southwest Ohio residents.

        Mr. Taft's two-year budget assumes Ohio will join or create a multistate lottery to provide up to $70 million for schools.

        On Monday, House lawmakers said they are considering an alternate plan that would place up to 1,500 electronic slot machines at Ohio's seven racetracks. Administered by the Ohio Lottery, estimates show these machines could bring in $400 million to $900 million over the next two years.

        Ms. Miller said the Ohio Lottery neither supports nor opposes the racetrack proposal and will continue to examine its multistate options.

        The Ohio Lottery may meet with Big Game officials as soon as next week, she said.

        Earlier Wednesday, in Columbus, religious groups opposed to gambling promised to fight any gambling measure that emerges. The Rev. John Edgar, leader of a United Methodist anti-gambling task force, said the group would organize a grass-roots effort to defeat racetrack casinos and Mr. Taft's multistate lottery proposal.


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