A strong push is building to include internet lottery in the Ohio sports betting legislation.
Sen. Bill Coley tells PlayOhio that he plans to introduce an amendment to H 194 authorizing the Ohio Lottery Commission to offer lottery products online.
“You can buy a car on a cell phone in Ohio but not a lottery ticket,” Coley said. “We need to look at that. I want to make sure that, if we do a legalized bill, offerings under the bill are maximized to everybody’s satisfaction.”
A former president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, Coley commands respect among his colleagues on gaming issues. He chairs the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Coley believes that the Lottery Commission already has authority to offer sports betting and internet lottery without legislation. However, he thinks the commission is waiting on direction from the legislature.
“I think they would like to have some guidance from the legislature on this, and from that end we ought to help,” he said.
Senate sponsor on board with including iLottery
Sen. John Eklund, the Senate sponsor of the sports betting bill, told PlayOhio that there’s a good chance for a push to include internet lottery in the legislation.
Eklund agreed that there is no constitutional or statutory impediment for the Lottery Commission to offer online lottery.
“But if such a law is needed to redouble everybody’s confidence that it’s OK to do it, I’m not opposed to that,” Eklund said. “I think it’s worked very well in Michigan. That does not offend me, and I don’t think that it would impede the progress of the sports wagering bill.”
Last week, Eklund and House sponsor Dave Greenspan announced that the sponsors had come to terms on a substitute bill. The new language worked out the differences between the sports betting legislation from each chamber.
House may be more difficult path for internet lottery
Greenspan said he would prefer not to complicate H 194 with an unrelated item.
In his original bill as passed by the House, the Lottery Commission oversaw sports betting in the state. However, the substitute tabs the Casino Control Commission as the regulator.
“The revised bill will have no nexus to the lottery,” Greenspan said. “I believe a nexus would be necessary, or at least definitely recommended. It is not my intention to compound the issue of sports gaming with iLottery.”
If H 194 does return to the House with iLottery attached, Greenspan said doesn’t know how the House would receive it.
Internet Lottery Impact on Ohio Casinos
Coley asserted that online lottery would not have a negative effect on Ohio casinos.
“In states that have an iLottery feature, brick-and-mortar casinos were seeing an uptick in foot traffic pre-COVID,” Coley said. “The traditional reasons that used to be given for why we don’t allow a mobile app have been disproven.”
Three of Ohio’s neighboring states, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, have internet lottery. Additionally, Michigan and Pennsylvania have legalized online sports betting and casino gaming.
Eklund agreed with Coley, saying lottery representatives in other states told him that online lottery won’t negatively affect the casino industry.
“There has not been a bastardization of casino revenues in other states,” Eklund said. “It’s two different customer bases. People who bet sports online don’t view online lottery as an alternative to sports gaming.”
Next steps for Ohio sports betting bill
The House bill is awaiting committee assignment in the Senate.
Eklund’s Senate sports betting bill was assigned to the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee. As a result, it seems likely the House bill gets the same assignment.
Coley stated that he would like to see the bill come through his committee so that he could propose adding internet lottery along with other changes. But if not, he could make the amendment on the Senate floor.
Eklund said he will push for a committee hearing on H 194 prior to the November election. The Ohio legislative session goes to the end of the year.