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Anti-gambling group can't sue over Ohio slots

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A state court delivered a setback Thursday to an anti-gambling group that's seeking to challenge Gov. John Kasich's decision to legalize slots-like video lottery terminals at the state's seven horse tracks.

In a unanimous ruling, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that the Ohio Roundtable lacks legal standing and cannot proceed.

Roundtable Vice President Rob Walgate said the group is weighing its next legal move. The overall suit argues Kasich improperly expanded the lottery by allowing the devices without putting the question to voters.

"The Ohio appellate court has sent a clear message to Gov. Kasich, the Ohio Legislature and the gambling industry: They may do whatever they please regardless of the Ohio Constitution," he said.

In 2009, Ohio voters approved casino gambling at four sites in the state with backers promising new jobs and opponents warning about more gambling addicts. Casinos moved forward in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati.

An agreement Kasich signed after the vote allowed a gambling company building two of the casinos to move its two horse racing tracks to other locations to avoid competition between tracks and casinos. Under the deal, Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National agreed to pay the state $150 million in relocation fees.

Ohio Roundtable filed its lawsuit in October 2011 against Kasich, the Ohio tax commissioner, the Ohio Lottery Commission, the Ohio Casino Control Commission and associated members of the commissions claiming the video slot machines are unconstitutional.

Walgate said as clear as the message was to Kasich, lawmakers and the gambling industry, it's just as clear to voters.

"Regardless of how you vote to amend the Constitution, the governor and Legislature can ignore the law and cut whatever backroom deals they please," he said.

Attorneys for the state say the governor was within his rights. Kasich's spokesman Rob Nichols said, "We're very pleased with the court's decision."

During oral arguments in the case in January, the state's lawyer argued that the Roundtable was making a false distinction between constitutional and unconstitutional gambling. The Roundtable's attorney argued constitutional limits to gambling still apply even though one form of gambling, casinos, was agreed to by voters.

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