Not Everyone Likes The Ohio Sports Betting Bill, Now What?

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As 2021 unfolded, week after week, the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Gaming heard testimony as it worked to craft legislation to bring sports betting to Ohio. 

On Wednesday, the flood gates opened with many of these same stakeholders voicing concerns about Senate Bill 176.

David Corey, executive vice president of the Bowling Centers of Ohio Association, said the aspect of the legislation that calls for a lottery pool — allowing bettors to place a single $20 bet on an outcome such as the Cleveland Browns vs. the Baltimore Ravens — sounds “creative” and “novel,” but simply won’t work.

“In practical terms the game is unfortunately not workable for sports bettors and retailers, and makes the issue much harder than it needs to be,” he said during a committee hearing on the bill. 

What To Expect From Ohio Sports Betting

The current draft of the Ohio sports betting bill provides for two types of licenses. Existing casinos and racinos will be able to offer mobile betting. Professional sports teams will be able to offer retail betting on-site, predominantly focused on prop bets. In total, 20 licenses will be issued, but with more restrictions on who can offer mobile or retail betting in comparison to other Midwest states.

Smaller operators who are outside of the casino or racing industry want in, and larger entities like professional sports teams want more than retail betting opportunities. It seems, no one is truly happy with the Ohio sports betting legislation as it currently stands.

Sports Officials — Big And Small — Express Concerns Too

C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, said the bill places his schools — which are traditionally much smaller than major schools such as Ohio State University and the University of Ohio — under a significant burden.

“Did you know that some of our athletic staff members mow campus lawns in the summer so that they can remain full-time employees?” he asked. “How will these tiny operations implement the necessary game integrity, anti-gambling training that will be required because of this bill?”

And it wasn’t just the small businesses that came out swinging. Doug Healy, chief financial officer of the Cincinnati Reds, said he was hopeful the legislation could be amended to “improve” it, so they could remain supportive. 

“Frankly the current legislation enhances the out-of-state gaming interest ability to procure market access in Ohio without rewarding the stakeholders who have invested billions of dollars and employed tens of thousands of buckeyes,” he said. 

Healy’s concerns stem from how the licenses will be awarded.  As it stands now there are two types of licenses Type A and Type B, each of which would allow up to 20 applicants to offer sports betting in Ohio. 

Next Steps For Ohio Sports Betting Legislation

Ohio has a full-time legislature so unlike other states it is not facing a clock. This year’s session ends when the year does, Dec. 31. 

But Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) has made it known he wants a bill, and legislative leaders have said they hope to have one finalized by June 30.

The Senate committee has a third hearing scheduled on the bill next Wednesday, May 26.  

In order for the bill to pass, it must go through both chambers. State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D) is expected to shepherd legislation in the House, but her office said this week in an email to Gaming Today she has nothing to announce at this time.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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