High court sidelines challenge to Kasich slots deal


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An anti-gambling group fighting Gov. John Kasich’s decision to legalize slots-like video lottery terminals at Ohio’s seven horse tracks lacks standing to sue the state, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday — but one would-be casino operator was allowed to proceed.

In a split decision, justices upheld a lower court that said the Ohio Roundtable and most other parties to the case failed to show they had the “direct, personal stake” required to sue. At the same time, they said the lower court was wrong to dismiss a challenge by Frederick Kinsey before his arguments could be made, sending his claim back to Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Kinsey, of Columbiana County, claims that exclusive rights granted to casinos under the constitutional amendment approved in 2009 violated his equal-protection rights to open a casino in the state. The gambling houses were authorized in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati.

The Roundtable lawsuit was brought on behalf of a gambling addict in October 2011 against Kasich, the state tax commissioner, the Lottery Commission, the Casino Control Commission and associated members. It argued it was unconstitutional for Kasich, a Republican, to expand the lottery without putting the question to voters. It also said that slots aren’t a constitutional form of gambling and that lottery proceeds in Ohio must go to education, not to casino operators as Kasich’s deal allowed.

Without gaining legal standing, that question now won’t be litigated.

“The Ohio Supreme Court and the lower courts have once again slammed the door on Ohio citizens and Ohio taxpayers,” said Roundtable vice president Rob Walgate. He said the group, including Kinsey, was weighing its legal options.

The Attorney General’s Office said it was pleased that the Supreme Court sided with almost all of the state’s arguments. Spokesman Dan Tierney said the office believes Ohio is likely to prevail against Kinsey in the remaining challenge.

“The negative effects of gambling that appellants allege do not constitute concrete injuries to appellants that are different in manner or degree from those caused to the general public, were not the state’s conduct, and cannot be redressed by the requested relief,” Justice Judith French wrote for the majority.

Justice Paul Pfeifer dissented in part. He said allowing a judge to hear the substance of the Roundtable’s case would have honored the 3 million Ohioans who cast votes on the casino amendment.

“(W)hen citizens bring before the court significant and important issues that affect millions of Ohioans,” he wrote, “this court should not throw up its hands and sputter ‘but these people have not suffered a differentiated harm.'”

It’s the second high-profile standing case the high court has decided against the primary plaintiff since Kasich took office. The other involved a challenge to the constitutionality of his privatized job-creation entity, JobsOhio.

Kasich is running for president.

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Cornwell reported from Cincinnati.