Paper, Plastic or Parlay? Ohio Grocery Stores Ask For Sports Betting

Posted By Matthew Kredell on February 25, 2021

We need a price check on Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals, aisle five.

Grocery stores want to put the market in the Ohio sports betting market.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Gaming, a representative from the Ohio Grocers Association asked lawmakers to authorize sports betting at more than 600 Ohio grocery stores that offer lottery tickets.

“If the state legalizes sports gaming, Ohio grocery stores, as committed and proven partners of the state lottery, would appreciate the ability to provide this new offering to Ohioans living in all areas of the state,” said Joe Ewig.

However, there’s a long way to go before Ohioans write “Cincinnati Reds 2021 World Series +3000” on their grocery list.

Aisle 1: bread; aisle 2: sports betting

Ewig explained that grocery stores wouldn’t use the samples tables at the end of aisles to take sports bets.

“We recognize that there are a lot of different concepts and proposals for how sports gaming will function and be structured in Ohio. To that end, we’re not here today to advocate for opening a sportsbook in each grocery store or having tables set up throughout our locations or aisles. But we ask you to consider making us a part of the sports gaming system.”

The association wants sports betting at grocery stores to go through existing lottery terminals.

“We envision this as an enhanced opportunity through those existing machines that we operate,” Ewig said.

Asked if any other states have sports betting at markets, Ewig answered that a similar model for what the association suggests exists in Delaware.

Why sports betting likely isn’t coming to Ohio grocery stores

In the last legislative session, Ohio bowling alleys, bars, restaurants, and veterans and fraternal organizations requested sports betting.

The bill passed by the House last year allowed for sports betting kiosks at veterans and fraternal halls. However, the substitute agreed upon by House and Senate sponsors later in the session cut them out.

A representative of Ohio veterans and fraternal charitable organizations spoke at the committee meeting. But his testimony focused on e-bingo. It seems the organizations have agreed to drop sports betting in return for e-bingo.

Ohio’s 11 casinos/racinos fought against this retail expansion of sports betting. And, given Senate opposition to such widespread gambling expansion, they probably don’t have to fight that hard.

One committee member asked Ewig how bets at grocery stores would be paid out. Another said he didn’t want people bringing bags of cash into the market to place sports bets. Ewig said the association would be OK with a maximum bet amount.

Ewig argued that casinos shouldn’t be afraid of grocery stores, as they will still dominate the market with mobile apps.

“Appreciating mobile gaming will no doubt consume the lion’s share of the market, we are asking for an inclusive approach that will allow other businesses in Ohio, including grocery stores, to provide a sports betting product as part of an expanded lottery offering.”

Representatives of bowling alleys, bars, and restaurants have yet to attend the select committee.

Other speakers at Select Committee on Gaming

This was the first committee meeting in two weeks. Last week’s hearing was canceled for inclement weather.

Representatives of FanDuel, theScore and iDEA Growth spoke about best-practice language for a sports betting bill, which provided no surprises.

Speaking for iDEA Growth, Dan Dodd, a former member of the Ohio legislature, brought some data sure to interest lawmakers.

He noted GeoComply data showed 354,000 legal Super Bowl wagers placed within 10 miles of the Ohio border this month. Online sports betting is legal in four Ohio neighbors: Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

He opined that many of those wagers surely came from Ohio residents. And they don’t include the many more wagers Ohioans placed on illegal offshore websites.

The committee meets again March 3.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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