Ohio has formally given gambling regulators the green light to ban bettors from sports betting in the state if they are found to have threatened athletes or others associated with a sporting event.
The provision was included in Ohio’s 2024-2025 operating budget, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law on July 5.
The new law, the first of its kind in the U.S., lets the Ohio Casino Control Commission prohibit anyone who has threatened “a person involved in a sporting event, where the threat was related to sports gaming” from engaging in wagering at any Ohio sportsbooks — retail or online.
The full provision states:
“Allows CAC to exclude a person from participating in sports gaming in Ohio if the person has threatened violence or harm against a person who is involved in a sporting event, where the threat was related to sports gaming and made before, during, or after a sporting event.”
Regulators expressed concern over threats in January
In January, shortly after Ohio’s statewide launch of legal sports betting, OCCC’s executive director Matt Schuler first publicly expressed concern over threats made to athletes related to bettors being upset over gambling losses.
At the OCCC’s Jan. 18 meeting, Schuler said the commission had the authority to put people on an involuntary exclusion list from all gambling in the state if they threaten or harass athletes. Schuler suggested the commission look into using that power following reports that Ohio college athletes were being harassed by bettors.
Schuler was responding to recent comments made to reporters by University of Dayton men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant, who suggested that some of Dayton’s players suffered abuse on social media following a loss.
“I think that it’s incumbent upon the commission to look into that very (involuntary exclusion) power that if social media is able to help us determine who these individuals are who are speaking out hate to kids, then the commission has a responsibility to ensure that certainly those people cannot engage in legal sports gaming in the state of Ohio,” Schuler said at the January meeting.
The Ohio Lottery Commission, which regulates sports betting kiosks located in bars, restaurants, stores and other venues across the state, issued a press release not long after concurring with Schuler and the OCCC.
In the release, the Lottery stated:
“In light of recent media reports which indicated collegiate athletes in Ohio were the target of hate speech by sports bettors, the Ohio Lottery is reminding sports bettors that harassment of college and professional sports athletes is prohibited, and any sports bettor caught harassing an athlete after a losing bet will be placed on the involuntary exclusion list and prohibited from placing any future bets.“
Provision gives regulators “additional tools” to address harassment
The new provision appears to give more precise language to the general laws surrounding regulators’ ability to ban individuals from sports gaming in the state.
The existing law allowed for an involuntary sports gaming exclusion list to “include any person whose presence in a sports gaming facility or whose participation in the play or operation of sports gaming in this state is determined by the commission to pose a threat to the interests of the state.”
In a statement provided to the press regarding the new provision, the OCCC said that while existing law already has penalties for those who threaten violence or harm against athletes, coaches, referees or others involved in sporting events, the new provision gives the commission “additional tools to address these situations.”
“The language in the budget pertaining to exclusion from sports gaming of persons who threaten violence or harm against persons who are involved in sporting events is guidance from the General Assembly that making threats against athletes is unacceptable and threatens the integrity of sports gaming,” the OCCC’s statement said.
It’s unclear exactly how regulators would go about identifying those accused of making threats.
Ohio budget also includes sports betting tax increase
Ohio’s operating budget for the fiscal years 2024-2025 includes a few other provisions related to sports betting.
The approved budget includes a sports betting tax rate increase from 10% to 20%, which Gov. DeWine first proposed just six weeks after the launch of sports gaming. The provision marks the first time a state has increased its sports betting tax rate.
State Rep. Bill Seitz, who opposed the rate increase, recently told PlayUSA he doesn’t think the tax hike on sports gaming will actually stand. Seitz said that part of the Ohio House’s agreement on the budget was to include a Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio, which he expects to recommend against the rate increase, despite the commission’s report not being expected until June of next year.
“The explanation given to me is we went along with the 20% but we fully expect the gaming study commission, which will be a bunch of legislators, would come back and say that the tax shouldn’t be 20%,” Seitz said.
New budget allows breweries, wineries to host betting kiosks
Ohio’s 2024-2025 operating budget also includes an expansion of the types of businesses that can apply for Type-C licenses, which allow businesses to host up to two sports betting kiosks.
The new budget also caps the amount of Ohio’s sports betting revenue allocated to K-12 athletics at $15 million. The law originally required 98% of sports betting revenue to be equally split between youth sports and general education funding. The remaining 2% of the revenue will continue to go to problem gambling services in the state.
The final Ohio budget did not include the House’s proposal to increase from five to seven the number of allowed brick-and-mortar retail sportsbooks in Ohio’s largest counties. The law would have allowed Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties to add two additional retail sportsbook locations.