Ohio Senate Passes Sports Betting Bill That Some Casinos Don’t Like

Posted By Matthew Kredell on June 16, 2021

The Ohio Senate nearly unanimously passed a sports betting bill Wednesday, even as some lawmakers asked for changes as the bill moves to the House.

Although S 176 passed 30-2, several Senators expressed concerns that it will prevent casinos and racinos in and around Ohio’s three biggest cities from having brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

As previously detailed by PlayOhio, the issue centers around priority given to sports teams combined with county limits on retail licenses.

Sens. Kenny Yuko and Sandra Williams voted for the bill but asked for changes to ensure casino/racino participation.

“The bottom line is the very casinos who brought us here to have this conversation today are kind of being forced out,” Yuko said. “Can we fix this in the House? I hope so. I think it needs to be addressed.”

Senate passage came one day after the Senate Select Committee on Gaming advanced a bill it spent more than four months crafting. The House has until the end of the year to pass the bill, but committee members expressed hope to finish the legislation prior to recessing for the summer on June 30.

County limits leave no room for casino/racino sportsbooks

During committee hearings, sports teams and casinos/racinos asked for preferred consideration for licenses given their investments and economic impact in the community.

In the final committee amendment adopted Tuesday, Ohio professional sports teams, PGA Tour golf, and NASCAR events received preference in obtaining a Type A or Type B license. An amendment made on the Senate floor added Major League Soccer teams.

With 33 Type B retail licenses, there are plenty to go around for all to participate. However, in an attempt to spread economic development, the committee added county limits for sportsbooks.

  • Counties with a population more than 1 million get no more than three Type B licenses.
  • Counties with populations between 500,000 and 1 million can have two Type B licenses.
  • For counties with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, licenses are limited to one.
  • Type B licenses can’t be located in counties with populations under 100,000.

Williams represents Cleveland, located in Cuyahoga County. With a population of about 1.2 million, Cuyahoga can have three sportsbooks. The Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers all play in the county.

With the Ohio Casino Control Commission instructed to give them priority, the Cleveland sports teams will take all three available retail licenses. That leaves JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino without a sportsbook.

Yuko pointed out that sports teams also would take up the available retail licenses in the counties that house Columbus and Cincinnati.

“It would be like we introduced something new for farming and said but I want to exclude Bob Peterson,” Yuko said. “Why? He’s been a farmer for a long time. It doesn’t seem right … You don’t take the same people who brought you to the dance and cut them off at the door. We have to give them an opportunity to be involved.”

Details of Ohio sports betting bill

Other than the county limit snafu, the Senate committee accomplished its goal of creating a bill with a free-market philosophy. Key details include:

  • 25 available Type A mobile sports betting licenses. License holders pay $1 million for a three-year license.
  • 33 available Type B retail sports betting licenses. License holders pay $100,000 for a three-year license, renewable for $25,000.
  • Management service providers wanting to partner with either licensee must pay $2 million over three years. If they want to partner for both mobile and retail, they have to pay twice.
  • 10% tax on sports wagering, with 98% going to K-12 education and 2% to problem gambling.
  • Allows no tax deduction on promotional play on sports betting for the first five years, 10% in years 6-10 and 20% from year 11 on.
  • The Ohio Casino Control Commission oversees and regulates sports betting.
  • A Type C license allows two sports betting kiosks at restaurants and bars that hold a Class D liquor license. It limits wager amounts to $200 a day and bet types to spreads, moneyline and over/under.
  • The OCCC chooses between 3 and 20 Type C vendors. Each pays $100,000 for a three-year license, renewable for $25,000. Bars and restaurants pay $6,000 annually for the kiosks.
  • Sports wagering allowed on professional, international/Olympic, and college sports, esports and horse racing.
  • The Casino Control Commission may begin accepting license applications Jan. 1, awarding them by April 1.
  • Allows veterans and fraternal organizations to have 10 eBingo machines.
  • Orders a study conducted on iLottery.
  • Orders a study on if the state should increase funding to problem gambling.

What’s next for Ohio sports betting

With Senate passage, S 176 moves on to the House, which last year took the lead on sports betting.

In 2020, the House passed a sports betting bill in June. But the Senate didn’t address the issue until the lame-duck session and never gave it serious consideration.

After previous House champion Dave Greenspan lost his re-election bid in November, the Senate took the lead in crafting legislation this year.

Reps. Jay Edwards and Brigid Kelly took meetings on the issue but never introduced a bill, opting to wait for the Senate legislation.

The House is scheduled to meet next Wednesday and Thursday, then if needed Friday, June 29, June 30, July 1 and July 7. Then it breaks until September.

Photo by Ashley Landis / The Associated Press
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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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