Lawmakers are expected to unveil sports betting legislation in Ohio next week, possibly Tuesday.
State Sen. Kirk Schuring (R), chairman of Select Committee on Gaming, has spent months listening to interested parties who all want a piece of what is expected to be a very big pie.
One of those stakeholders is David Corey, the executive vice president of the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio. His group represents nearly 150 bowling centers across the state.
Corey wants lawmakers to allow small businesses — bowling alleys, bars, restaurants, to name a few — to administer sports betting in the same way they administer Keno. Keno is run by the Ohio Lottery. The lottery also administers VLTs, the video lottery terminals in place at the state’s seven racinos. The Casino Control Commission, on the other hand, administers gambling at the state’s four casinos.
“There is precedent for the hybrid model,” he said during an interview with Gaming Today. “Why can’t you do the same with sports betting?”
Ohio Colleges Don’t Want Bets On Their Teams
The specific details of how sports betting is addressed in Ohio until a formal bill is introduced. But it’s clear from hours of testimony all sides have strong opinions.
Schuring’s committee heard from professional sports teams, casino powerhouses, small businesses, and countless others during open hearings held this year. The committee was established with the sole task of formulating sports betting legislation. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) said in March he expects a bill to pass this year.
Ohio colleges and universities do not want bettors waging on their athletes. They made this clear in March when Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, testified before Schuring’s committee that allowing it would disrupt the integrity of the game.
“If wagering on collegiate athletics is permitted, it would not take a great leap of logic to conclude the risk of student athletes soliciting and accepting payments to influence the outcome of games may increase. While we would like to believe that our student athletes are men and women of impeccable integrity, and most are, it would be naive and irresponsible to simply dismiss or ignore [that temptation,]” he said.” Unfortunately, it is human nature.”
Who Should Run Sports Betting: The Lottery Or The Casino Commission?
Professional sports teams such as the Cleveland Indians and the Columbus Blue Jackets want the Ohio Casino Commission to be in charge so that they too can get in on the action.
That action is expected to be millions of dollars of revenue. But Corey says his group would be shut out if it goes through the commission, that’s why they are arguing for the lottery.
“All we are asking for is 5% of the pie,” Corey said, estimating how much would be left once the big casinos and other players took their chunks.
He argues the Quick Keno kiosks throughout the state are purple and easily identifiable, so the technology exists for them to piggyback off of them. A potential customer on a Sunday could be lured into his bowling alleys if they knew they also had the chance to bet on the Cleveland Browns before kickoff.
“We want people to come to our bowling centers and to give them an additional entertainment option where they can bowl, have a bite to eat, get a beverage, and place a bet,” he said.
What Are The Next Steps For Ohio Sports Betting?
Schuring has been saying for weeks the legislation was coming soon. Some thought it would have happened by now, but all indications are it’s coming next week.
The bill will need to go through the legislative process, meaning approval in both the House and the Senate. The Ohio House passed sports betting legislation last year but it stalled in the Senate. Advocates are hoping that because nearby states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia all have sports betting — often appealing to Ohio residents who cross state lines to play — that 2021 may finally be the year.
Corey said he was “cautiously optimistic” that his bowling centers, and other small businesses, would be included. But he is also prepping for the worst.
“We are going to lobby the heck out of it,” he said, noting that lawmakers can’t talk the talk of supporting small businesses then turn their backs on them when they need them.